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EU warns of election meddling in upcoming vote

Rebecca Staudenmaier
May 13, 2019

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova expressed concern about disinformation campaigns, particularly from Russia. Her warning comes just two weeks before key European Parliament elections in the bloc.

A person holds up a sign reading "Fake News"
Image: Imago/ZumaPress

Foreign disinformation campaigns are seeking to influence the outcome of the upcoming European Parliament elections, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova warned on Monday.

"We cannot allow for election results in even one member state to be distorted by manipulation. Not solely, but also in part because these elections will decide the destiny of Europe," Jourova told the newspapers of the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND).

According to the justice commissioner, organized disinformation campaigns from abroad are seeking to exploit current divisions in society.

"This makes it hard to identify them. We are currently experiencing a digital arms race. Europe needs to be aware," Jourova said.

In the fight against disinformation, the EU has set up a unit called "StratCom" to uncover disinformation coming from Russia. The unit reviews Russian media as well as manipulated news in other publications and makes their findings public.

Read more: EU election voter apps: Swipe right to vote?

The Debate: Which way is Europe heading?

Campaigns targeting Germany

The New York Times reported Sunday that numerous accounts linked to Russia or far-right groups have been spreading false information and divisive stories ahead of the European election.

The paper reported that in Germany, the suspected accounts support the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) as well as far-left antifa groups in a bid to provoke divisions. Experts cited in the report said that the current campaigns in many ways mirror the pattern of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius called for vigilance ahead of the EU-wide vote, saying that the upcoming vote will be a big test for the bloc.

"The European election is a test run of whether defense mechanisms against Russian interference work. We cannot be naive. Moscow is trying to create a permanent state of instability in the EU and exploit it for its own interests," Linkevicius told RND.

The European Parliament elections are due to take place from May 23 to 26.

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