A proposal introducing penalties on European political parties deliberately breaching data protection to tamper with EU elections was informally agreed on Wednesday.
The new provisions agreed by Parliament and Council negotiators are aimed at protecting the electoral process from online disinformation campaigns based on misuse of voters’ personal data. Some recent cases, like the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal, show how the vulnerabilities of data protection systems may undermine democratic debate and free elections.
A few months before the European elections, Parliament and Council negotiators have agreed on a draft law that would introduce financial sanctions on European political parties or foundations that infringe data protection rules deliberately to influence or attempt to influence the outcome of European elections.
In practice, once a national supervisory authority decides that such an infringement has occurred, and when the Authority for European political parties and foundations is informed about this decision, the latter can trigger the verification procedure, which can lead to a financial penalty being imposed.
The procedure for the elections to the European Parliament is governed by the national provisions of each member state. In addition, European political parties will also organise their own campaigns at European level. One of their purposes is to promote the lead candidates’ process for the election of the European Commission President.
The European Commission put forward the proposal as part of a package focusing on free and fair European elections, as announced in the last State of the Union speech. The new provisions amend the 2014 regulation on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations.
The deal concluded by the negotiators will have to be backed by the Constitutional Affairs Committee (on 29 January) and the Parliament as a whole (in March) as well as by Council before it can enter into force. The regulation will be binding and directly applicable in all member states on the day of its publication in the EU Official Journal.