Motion for a resolution - B9-0263/2024Motion for a resolution

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on new allegations of Russian interference in the European Parliament, in the upcoming EU elections and the impact on the Union

22.4.2024 - (2024/2696(RSP))

to wind up the debate on the statements by the Council and the Commission
pursuant to Rule 132(2) of the Rules of Procedure

Viola von Cramon‑Taubadel, Bronis Ropė, Alexandra Geese, Francisco Guerreiro, Henrike Hahn
on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group

See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B9-0262/2024

Procedure : 2024/2696(RSP)
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European Parliament resolution on new allegations of Russian interference in the European Parliament, in the upcoming EU elections and the impact on the Union


The European Parliament,

 having regard to its decision of 13 September 2023 on amendments to Parliament’s Rules of Procedure with a view to strengthening integrity, independence and accountability[1],

 having regard to its resolution of 13 July 2023 on recommendations for reform of European Parliament’s rules on transparency, integrity, accountability and anti-corruption[2],

 having regard to its resolution of 1 June 2023 on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation[3],

 having regard to its resolution of 9 March 2022 on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation[4],

 having regard to its resolution of 10 October 2019 on foreign electoral interference and disinformation in national and European democratic processes[5],

 having regard to its previous resolutions on EU-Russia relations, in particular that of 8 February 2024 on Russiagate: allegations of Russian interference in the democratic processes of the European Union[6],

 having regard to its resolution of 23 November 2022 on recognising the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism[7],

 having regard to its resolution of 1 March 2022 on the Russian aggression against Ukraine[8],

 having regard to the European External Action Service report of 23 January 2024 entitled ‘2nd EEAS Report on Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference Threats – A Framework for Networked Defence’,

 having regard to the Commission communication of 12 December 2023 on Defence of Democracy (COM(2023)0630),

 having regard to the Commission proposal of 12 December 2023 for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing harmonised requirements in the internal market on transparency of interest representation carried out on behalf of third countries and amending Directive (EU) 2019/1937 (COM(2023)0637),

 having regard to the Commission communication of 3 December 2020 on the European democracy action plan (COM(2020)0790),

 having regard to the legal principle of the presumption of innocence,

 having regard to its Rules of Procedure and the Code of Conduct for Members of the European Parliament,

 having regard to its resolution of 16 September 2021 on strengthening transparency and integrity in the EU institutions by setting up an independent EU ethics body[9],

 having regard to Rule132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and as reflected in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and embedded in international human rights treaties, and whereas those values, which are common to the Member States, constitute the foundation of the rights enjoyed by those living in the Union;

B. whereas foreign interference aimed at undermining the proper functioning of European democratic processes, including interference through provision of undue financial support to elected politicians and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), large- scale information manipulation operations and political disinformation campaigns, as well as the sabotaging of election infrastructure with the aim of altering the outcome of elections, constitute serious threats to the values and principles enshrined in Article 2, TEU; whereas reports abound of increasing attempts by state and non-state actors from third countries, and in particular from Russia, to interfere, directly or indirectly, with democratic decision-making and electoral processes in the Union and its Member States; whereas those foreign interferences constitute forms of external pressure that can effectively undermine the exercise of EU and Member States’ sovereignty;

C. whereas investigations ongoing in several Member States increasingly point to the existence the existence of links between the Kremlin and MEPs from far-right political parties; whereas politicians from far-right parties, including Alternative für Deutschland (AfD),Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally), Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz (Hungarian Civic Alliance), Matteo Salvini’s Lega (League) and the Spanish party VOX have allegedly promoted pro-Russian propaganda via the Voice of Europe media organisation;

D. whereas analysis of voting patterns in the European Parliament has shown that MEPs from the far right and far left of the political spectrum were the most sympathetic to Russia;

E. whereas Voice of Europe, an online media outlet directly funded by third-country nationals with strong Kremlin ties, provided European politicians and MEPs from the extreme right with a platform to promote Russian propaganda aimed at spreading anti-EU disinformation and at undermining EU support for Ukraine; whereas far-right politicians suspected of links with Russia used Voice of Europe to portray the EU as a belligerent entity and to describe Ukraine as an irremediably corrupt country; whereas those politicians tend to normalise manifestations of hatred and intolerance based on race, national origin or sexual orientation and to project a vision of Russia as the authentic keeper of traditional family values; whereas the public discourse of those politicians is leading to dangerous divisions in society as a whole and is a threat to democracy;

F. whereas intelligence agencies and prosecuting authorities in several Member States allege that Voice of Europe was used by the Kremlin as a vehicle to pay thousands of euro, in cash or cryptocurrencies, to far-right politicians running in the upcoming European elections; whereas, following the publication of these allegations, Voice of Europe ceased to operate from the territory of the Union; whereas Voice of Europe has resumed its operations from a website hosted by a cloud and website service provider based in Kazakhstan; whereas Belgium’s federal prosecutor opened an investigation into the pro-Russian propaganda network that is accused of paying MEPs to promote the Kremlin’s agenda and to undermine EU support for Ukraine;

G. whereas Russian funding of political activities and politicians within the EU continues to be revealed; whereas there are ongoing investigations by US law enforcement authorities into the acceptance by the AfD’s lead candidate for the upcoming European elections, Maximilian Krah, of payments made by Oleg Voloshyn, a pro-Russian activist who is on the US sanctions list; whereas the Kremlin has, in the past, sponsored and supported a number of far-right parties in Europe and, among other things, enabled the party of Marine Le Pen to receive a loan of EUR 9.4 million from a Russian bank in 2013; whereas since then, Le Pen and her party members have expressed a pro-Kremlin stance on multiple occasions;

H. whereas a recent study by the Commission[10] found that, in the first year of Russia’s war against Ukraine, online platforms ‘enabled the Kremlin to run a large-scale disinformation campaign targeting the European Union and its allies, reaching an aggregate audience of at least 165 million and generating at least 16 billion views’; whereas Russian funding of political activities and politicians within the EU also contributes to an increase in the reach of online pro-Kremlin propaganda, disseminated in particular via AfD accounts, contributing to a disproportionately negative impact on civic discourse online;

I. whereas receipt of foreign funding in breach of existing provisions on the transparency of political financing and campaign financing constitutes a major corruptive factor that undermines the integrity of the electoral process; whereas funding received in breach of the rules applicable to political financing reduces public trust in the legitimacy of the democratic processes in the Member States and at the Union level; whereas the integrity of the EU institutions, and their resilience in the face of foreign interference that affects democratic decision-making and electoral processes, are paramount to the correct functioning of European democracy; whereas the capacity of the Union and the Member States to prevent, detect, investigate and sanction cases of illicit political financing constitutes a crucial benchmark for the rule of law;

J. whereas, in a leaked classified addendum to Russia’s official ‘Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation’ from April 2023, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls for an ‘offensive information campaign’ and other measures spanning ‘the military-political, economic and trade and informational psychological spheres’ against a ‘coalition of unfriendly countries’, noting that ‘it is important to create a mechanism for finding the vulnerable points of their external and internal policies with the aim of developing practical steps to weaken Russia’s opponents’ and that the outcome of Russia’s war against Ukraine will ‘to a great degree determine the outlines of the future world order’;

K. whereas on numerous occasions, MEPs from the predominantly far-right spectrum have knowingly served Russia’s interests by participating in fake election observation missions to Russian-occupied territories and other regions; whereas high-ranking pro-Russian politicians often travel secretly to Russia and its proxies, as was the case with Petr Bystron, AfD member of the German Bundestag, when he covertly travelled to Belarus while covering up his trip with sham meetings in Vilnius;

L. whereas Russia is known to extensively deploy a wide array of hybrid warfare tactics as part of a larger strategy to undermine the proper functioning of European democratic processes; whereas a wealth of evidence shows that Russian malign interference tactics rely on a myriad of tools, including coordinated political disinformation campaigns on social media, cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructures related but not limited to elections, as well as direct and indirect financial support of political actors and elite capture; whereas the use of foreign interference and information manipulation as a means to divide democratic societies was the precursor of Russia’s unprovoked full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine and has increased since then;

M. whereas new research shows that, in recent months, well-known disinformation networks have scaled up operations aimed at disseminating pro-Kremlin narratives on social media, especially on platforms such as X (formerly Twitter) and Tiktok; whereas these networks of Russian influence rely on the publishing, on a wide scale, of political advertisements purchased through fake accounts; whereas the objective of these foreign disinformation campaigns is to influence the outcome of the upcoming European elections by spreading Eurosceptic messages and promoting pro-Russian candidates; whereas, under EU law, very large online platforms and very large search engines must mitigate risks arising from any actual or foreseeable negative effects on civic discourse and electoral processes and on public security; whereas targeted political advertising on online platforms based on special categories of personal data, such as political views, is prohibited;

N. whereas the EU still lacks legally binding rules on transparency for the providers of interest representation services, including those that are directly or indirectly funded by third countries with the malign aim of influencing policies, decision-making and electoral activities in the Union; whereas enhancing harmonised transparency standards for all interest representatives within the Union is crucial to effectively prevent malicious interference throughout the Union, whether external or internal; whereas the regulation of interest representation services at the Union level must be accompanied by adequate safeguards against potential risks deriving from the disproportionate administrative burdens that may be imposed, in particular, on civil society actors and non-governmental organisations with no financial links to third countries involved in malign interference activities;

O. whereas Parliament’s Special Committee on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the EU, including disinformation, exposed in detail the Russian-led efforts and operations to infiltrate, influence and interfere with European democracies and the EU institutions, and called for a new, permanent sanctions regime to be established, targeting perpetrators engaging in malign foreign manipulation and interference of information;

P. whereas official investigations revealed the existence of numerous Russian spies working in sensitive institutions located in the EU, including NATO headquarters and the German Foreign Intelligence Service; whereas it is believed that the infiltration of the EU and its Member States by Russian spies is very prevalent, especially in Member States with pro-Kremlin sentiments, such as Hungary and Slovakia;

Q. whereas Parliament has repeatedly called for the establishment of a genuine ethics body, composed of independent ethics experts, and entrusted with the authority to investigate alleged breaches of ethics rules on its own initiative and to deal with individual cases if a participating institution or any of its members request it; whereas Parliament also demanded that the ethics body be trusted with the power to issue recommendations for sanctions, and the ability to receive and assess declarations;

R. whereas, in the wake of the Qatargate and Moroccogate allegations, Parliament reviewed its Code of Conduct with a view to strengthening procedures for dealing with breaches of transparency rules, improving sanctions mechanisms and reforming the relevant advisory committee; whereas the reviewed Code of Conduct establishes that any elected MEP found to be in breach of transparency rules can be given a penalty by the President of the European Parliament;

S. whereas investigating and prosecuting authorities in several Member States are currently cooperating to ascertain the existence of criminal responsibility linked to the acceptance by elected politicians and MEPs of funding disbursed by Voice of Europe; whereas spreading disinformation with the aim of influencing the elections and democratic decision-making processes under the influence of foreign actors can amount to a criminal offence in several EU countries; whereas receiving funds, gifts or benefits from a foreign person or organisation, in breach of transparency rules related to political financing, for the performance of activities that affect the democratic or constitutional order, may also give raise to criminal liability in several Member States;

T. whereas new rules on combating corruption through criminal law are currently being developed at the Union level; whereas equipping the Member States and the EU institutions with clear rules, tools and adequate resources to prevent and combat corruption is essential for strengthening the quality of democracy, and for the full realisation of the rule of law in the Union;

U. whereas countering foreign electoral interference entails a coordinated EU response with several complementary strands, including both preventive and repressive actions, as well as increased cooperation by competent authorities at the levels of the Union and the Member States;

1. Expresses its utmost concern about reports of Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the next European elections by recruiting and financing MEPs as agents of malign influence and disinformation, and welcomes all ongoing investigations into these reports;

2. Strongly condemns the continuous efforts by Russia to undermine European democracy and weaken support for Ukraine; is appalled by Russian attempts to systematically create a system of dependencies through European right-wing political parties that act as amplifiers of the Kremlin’s propaganda; recalls that, by pursuing a long-term strategy of foreign interference, Russia is trying to undermine and ultimately destroy democracy in Europe; points to Putin’s efforts to dismantle any form of democracy inside Russia and underlines that this must be seen as a warning not to be complacent about Putin’s long-term goals;

3. Reiterates its call on the Member States to further develop and fine-tune the sanctions packages adopted against the Russian Federation to more effectively limit its ability to wage its war of aggression and to close loopholes in the enforcement of the restrictive measures currently in force; reiterates its call to introduce a sanctions regime against perpetrators engaging in malign foreign information manipulation and interference;

4. Remains ready to further improve the functioning of Parliament’s internal oversight and accountability framework, as well as the sanctioning mechanisms available for ascertained breaches of Parliament’s integrity framework;

5. Calls for harsher punitive measures against the MEPs participating in fake election observations;

6. Considers it imperative to immediately conduct a thorough internal investigation to assess all possible cases of Russian interference aimed at influencing the outcome of the European elections, as well as cases of other kinds of malicious interference in the work of the institution; calls for the referral of the MEPs concerned to the Advisory Committee on the Conduct of Members to ascertain responsibility; calls on the President of the European Parliament to enforce the applicable internal sanctions framework in full;

7. Commits to supporting and cooperating fully with the authorities of the Member States in their investigations into the conduct of the MEPs concerned; calls on the competent authorities to investigate whether the MEPs concerned are liable for prosecution under national criminal law and remains ready to provide its full support and cooperation in this connection; calls for judicial and law enforcement cooperation with international partners to be strengthened in order to facilitate the uncovering, investigation and prosecution of transnational criminal activities and networks of malign foreign actors promoting corrupt practices aimed at interfering with the European elections and at undermining democracy in the EU;

8. Stresses the need to step up measures, including but not limited to criminal law, to counter organised foreign corruption and disinformation campaigns that aim to undermine the integrity of European institutions and the proper functioning of democratic decision-making process in the EU; calls on the Council to make progress in adopting its general approach on the new directive on combating corruption, and to keep a level of ambition that matches the ambition reflected in Parliament’s report;

9. Highlights the need to respect due process, the rule of law and fundamental rights; reiterates that the freedom to state political opinions must be protected and cannot be unduly restricted, and that MEPs must not face further restrictions on the expression of their opinions when exercising their legitimate mandate;

10. Recalls that an overwhelming majority of Member States have full or partial bans on foreign donations to political parties and candidates; stresses the importance of adequately sanctioning, including through criminal law, serious violations of transparency rules applicable to political financing, in particular in cases where breaches of such rules involve illicit financing by malign foreign actors; recalls that, even in cases where the law limits the sources of political funding, Russian actors have found ways to circumvent it and have offered support to their allies by taking out loans with foreign banks (as in the case of the National Front party in 2016), providing purchase and commercial agreements (as in the allegations reported by Der Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung on 17 May 2019 about the FPÖ party and by Buzzfeed and L’Espresso on 10 July 2019 about Lega per Salvini Premier), and facilitating financial activities (as reported by the British press about the campaign);

11. Stresses that it is crucial to develop and enforce high standards of transparency regarding the funding of candidacies for elected officials and political parties at national and EU levels, to prevent undue and illicit foreign influence in democratic decision-making processes; underlines the need for clear rules on the disclosure and management of conflicts of interests, the verification of the assets of elected officials and on the interaction between the private and public spheres;

12. Welcomes the adoption of the legislative package on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism, which includes new EU-level rules aimed at addressing money laundering risks related to politically exposed persons;

13. Notes that laws are essential to fight against corruption and criminal behaviour but cannot in themselves prevent criminal and unethical actions by individual MEPs; underlines that all political groups in the European Parliament bear a crucial responsibility to monitor the actions of their Members, and therefore reminds all groups to quickly act in the event that they are made aware of any behaviour raising doubts about the integrity of any of their members; calls on all MEPs and groups to fully cooperate with the relevant national and EU authorities in this context;

14. Welcomes the outcome of the negotiations with the Council and the Commission on the establishment of the interinstitutional ethics body, which represents an important first step toward the creation of single framework for cooperation on ethical standards across the EU institutions; recalls its demands to strengthen the role and responsibilities of the new EU ethics body, especially in terms of the body’s investigative and recommendation powers;

15. Reiterates its previous position that the exceptional character of Russian foreign interference requires special efforts by national and EU institutions, including Parliament, to identify, address and overcome this specific threat;

16. Strongly condemns foreign efforts to spread, through disinformation networks, political discourse that is increasingly characterised by hate speech; recalls that election campaigns provide particularly fertile ground for hate speech and incitement to hatred, which affects not only the political sphere, but the functioning of society at large and deepens political polarisations; stresses that political leaders and candidates for the upcoming European elections have a significant role and responsibility in the fight against hate speech and intolerance; underlines that social media and online platforms must enforce content moderation to prevent the dissemination of illegal content, in line with EU legal standards; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure the correct implementation of current legislation, such as Regulation (EU) 2022/2065[11], and to make use of all means and instruments at their disposal to counter the online dissemination of foreign political disinformation;

17. Strongly condemns the alarming revelation brought to light by reputable German media outlets exposing the fact that an employee affiliated with the AfD party and associated with a member of the German Bundestag was identified as a contact person for the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), raising serious concerns about potential foreign influence within the German political landscape;

18. Remains steadfast in its support for efforts to improve and enforce the rules that protect the integrity of this institution as a pillar of European democracy; considers that the allegations regarding the MEPs concerned underline the need for an enhanced culture of integrity within Parliament;

19. Calls on the Member States to expose and investigate Russian attempts to sabotage critical infrastructures; stresses the need to strengthen safeguards to protect election infrastructures, which are particularly vulnerable to physical attacks and cyberattacks before and during elections;

20. Calls on the Secretariat of the EU Transparency Register to ban any entities with direct or indirect relations with the Government of Russia, pursuant to the Council decision of 3 June 2022 concerning restrictive measures[12];

21. Calls for the Commission to improve the quality of the Defence of Democracy package, specifically the proposal of 12 December 2023 for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing harmonised requirements in the internal market on transparency of interest representation carried out on behalf of third countries and amending Directive (EU) 2019/1937 (COM(2023)0637), in order to effectively address internal threats of undue influence and to move away from a singular and ineffective focus on actors receiving foreign funding ;

22. Believes that free and fair elections are at the heart of the democratic process and therefore urges the EU institutions and the Member States to take decisive action to ensure that solely the will of the people serves as the basis for the authority of government, without foreign interference by malign actors, with a particular focus on the preparations for the European elections of 6 to 9 June 2024; calls for the Member States and the EU institutions to implement resilience strategies for elections and underlines the need to strengthen permanent monitoring efforts and enhance their implementation well ahead of elections, referendums and other important political processes across Europe;

23. Underlines the key role of investigative journalism in revealing the attempts at foreign interference and covert activities; reiterates its call for the EU institutions and the Member States to ensure sufficient and sustainable funding for investigative journalism;

24. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.







Last updated: 23 April 2024
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