At the initiative of the Socialists and Democrats, the European Parliament today held a debate on foreign interference and disinformation in national and European democratic processes.

Given continued evidence of attempts by state and non-state actors to undermine political systems in member states and to destabilise the EU by interfering in elections, our group is proposing to establish a special Parliamentary committee to deal with this top priority issue.

The S&D Group urges other political groups to join its fight to defend democracy and support this proposal in a resolution that will be voted on in October.

“In recent years, millions of Europeans have been exposed to massive disinformation campaigns in elections as a result of foreign interference. Cyber-attacks have risen to an unprecedented level and crucial electoral rules on the financing of political parties by third countries have been breached or circumvented. The most recent example of this kind of outside interference was the plan, exposed by the media in July, for Russian actors to fund Matteo Salvini‘s League party. But this goes much further than Russia and Italy,” said Kati Piri, S&D vice-president and member of the committee on foreign affairs.

“We must put the spotlight on all these cases of foreign interferences and propaganda tactics so that people are aware of what is really going on. We need serious answers on how to prevent other outside influences from doing the same when European voters again head to the polls. That is why I am proud that my group is taking the lead and proposing that we set up a special Parliamentary committee for an in-depth inquiry into foreign interference and disinformation campaigns. We must act now, so that European democracy, in which elections are always free and fair, can remain intact,” Piri concluded.

“The European elections earlier this year showed us that we are still vulnerable to manipulation by funding from foreign sources and weak regulation. We also saw interference in the Brexit referendum and the impact of the Cambridge Analytica scandal on its outcome. It is clear that we need urgent reform of our electoral laws and tougher action at the European level to defend our elections against foreign interference and manipulation. Member states cannot address these threats by working in isolation, nor can private sector self-regulation solve it all,” said Claude Moraes, S&D vice-president and member of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs.

“To win this fight we are specifically calling for both offline and online electoral safeguards, which include rules on transparency, limits to spending, respect for silence periods, equal treatment of candidates, banning of profiling for electoral purposes, labelling of content shared by bots, and the removal of fake accounts,” Moraes added.