“The great battle of disinformation is already happening and is being fought on digital platforms. But it's a battle we're already late in preparing for. Disinformation and propaganda campaigns are a threat to the security of Member States. It is time for European governments to become aware of this,” said Esteban González Pons MEP, Vice-Chairman of the EPP Group responsible for Legal and Home Affairs.
“We have seen several examples of Russian attempts to manipulate public opinion in the EU and influence election results in the past few years. Even though the Kremlin did not succeed in significantly destabilising European democratic processes in 2017, we must act immediately and boldly to enhance EU resilience against such threats, including the risks for the European Parliament elections in 2019,” insisted Sandra Kalniete MEP, Vice-Chair of the EPP Group for Foreign Affairs.
Both Mrs Kalniete and Mr González Pons are taking part, on behalf of the EPP Group, in today’s plenary debate on Russia and the influence of propaganda in EU Member States.
“Europe is the proof that liberal democracy not only continues to be the best possible alternative, it is also the only viable one. But in a world once again dominated by authoritarianism, national populism and misunderstood patriotism, Europe is for many countries a dangerous mirror to look into,” said Mr González Pons.
“Russia is a country that we respect. They will always find in us a willingness to dialogue. But there are issues such as the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia, interference in internal affairs or blacklists of members of parliament that we will not ignore,” he stressed.
According to Sandra Kalniete, “Russia has a well-developed and encompassing propaganda strategy to weaken the EU as whole, its Member States internally and to discredit international organisations, such as NATO.”
For efforts to fight Russian propaganda to be truly successful, Sandra Kalniete emphasises the importance of education: “On the one hand, we need immediate action against Russian “fake news”. At the same time, the problem of disinformation will not disappear anytime soon, so, with the long-term perspective in mind, Member States need to focus on critical thinking and media-literacy skills as important elements in our education systems”.
Other specific steps could encompass also “better cooperation with social media platforms to remove misleading content and greater support for independent, high-quality journalism, for example,” stresses Mrs Kalniete.
“Since the internet is a key venue for informational warfare against the EU, another important area of work is strengthening cybersecurity through collective work between Member States and increasing resources for the development of cyber-defence capabilities,” she added.
“We Europeans do not want to impose our way of life on anyone. But we are proud of our democracy, the separation of powers, freedom of expression and the rule of law. We will defend this legacy,” concluded Mr González Pons.
The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 217 Members from 27 Member States