With the European elections just two weeks away, EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová warned against the manipulation of European elections – and directed his comments at Russia. The Czech politician told Editorial Network Germany (RND): “We cannot allow the election results to be falsified by manipulation even in one-member state, not only but also because these elections are elections of destiny for Europe.” She said disinformation was aimed at intensifying polarised opinions in modern society and causing disruption as pre-election campaigns are rolled out across Europe.
Ms Jourová continued: “That makes it hard to recognise them, we’re experiencing a digital arms race, Europe needs to be prepared.”
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius also warned against Russian influence, and said the elections presented an opportunity to test existing safeguards against election rigging.
Mr Linkevičius said: “Europe must be on guard.
“We cannot be naive: Moscow is trying to create a permanent state of instability in the EU and exploit it for its own interests, which we must not allow.
Disinformation in Russia is now being investigated by the StratCom unit of the European External Action Service.
Ms Jourová said the fight against disinformation campaigns was a “central issue, even after the European elections” – and said StratCom should evaluate Russian media and identify manipulated messages in other publications.
But StratCom does not help counter the growing threat of campaigns that have their origins within the European community, political parties and the media.
Research carried out by European journalist network Investigate Europe followed the discussion about the UN migration pact last year.
Right-wing opponents managed to unsettle the public in a lasting way with their reading of the pact as a “death sentence against the nation-state” and “signal for an unprecedented migration of peoples”.
In 2016, the Russian Government interfered in the 2016 US Presidential election with the goals of harming the campaign of Hillary Clinton and increasing political or social discord in the United States.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.