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Thursday, 10 October 2019 - Brussels Revised edition

9.3. Foreign electoral interference and disinformation in national and European democratic processes (B9-0108/2019, B9-0111/2019)
Video of the speeches

Oral explanations of vote


  Ramona Strugariu (Renew). – Doamna Președintă, numărul cazurilor de dezinformare atribuite hackerilor ruși și identificate de East StratCom s-a dublat practic anul acesta față de 2018, ajungând la 1 000. Fabrica de dezinformare a Kremlinului lovește țintit. Luna aceasta, de pildă, jurnaliștii din România au descoperit că un post național de știri avea nu mai puțin de cinci pagini clonate pe Facebook, cu foarte multe like-uri rusești. Comisarul King la rândul lui avertiza luna trecută că numărul de conturi false de pe Facebook se ridică la 20 de milioane. Moscova pune la bătaie aproximativ un miliard de euro pe an pentru acțiuni de dezinformare și propagandă. Noi trebuie să facem mult mai mult. Cer viitorului Înalt Reprezentant să-și asume acum, ca prioritate, transformarea East StratCom într-o structură permanentă și finanțată corespunzător, iar viitoarea Comisie trebuie să aibă o agendă foarte clară pentru combaterea dezinformării, dar și pentru educarea publicului european.


  Dace Melbārde (ECR). – Priekšsēdētāj! Kā Latvijas pārstāvis es nešaubīgi balsoju par Dezinformācijas apkarošanas rezolūciju, jo visai Eiropai un īpaši valstīm, kas veido Eiropas ārējo robežu, ir pastāvīgi un koordinēti jācīnās pret dezinformāciju un trešo valstu iejaukšanos demokrātijas procesos.

Krievija savās politikās atklāti norāda uz plānu izveidot vienotu kultūras un informācijas telpu savās blakusvalstīs, īpaši Baltijas valstīs, tāpēc Latvija jau kopš 2016. gada īsteno kompleksu dezinformācijas apkarošanas plānu. Un es arī no savas pieredzes gribu ļoti uzsvērt nepieciešamību strādāt kompleksi. Ir būtiski gan apkarot dezinformāciju, bet vēl jo vairāk ir būtiski strādāt preventīvi, stiprinot demokrātijai nozīmīgās jomas un pie tam ne tikai vēlēšanu gados.

Kompleksās pieejas būtiskais aspekts ir spēcīgi un uzticami nacionālie mediji, īpaši redakcionāli neatkarīgi un labi apmaksāti sabiedriskie mediji. Bet ir īpaši svarīgi atbalstīt arī komerciālos medijus un īpaši lokālos un reģionālos medijus. Tāpat ir ļoti svarīgi domāt par citiem uzticamiem ziņu avotiem.

Šodien burtiski paralēli mūsu sesijai Norvēģijas namā notiek konference, kur kopā sanākušas enciklopēdijas no vairākām valstīm, un šo konferenci caurstrāvo doma par to, ka mums ir nepieciešams pārskatīt enciklopēdijas lomu Eiropas demokrātijas uzturēšanā un nodrošināt ekspertīzē [..] (sēdes vadītāja liedz runātājai turpināt runu).


  Mick Wallace (GUE/NGL). – Madam President, I voted against the motion, which I found to be a farce. The subtext is that Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela are spreading disinformation that’s helping to fuel gains made by anti-EU extremist and populist candidates across Europe.

Yet there is zero concrete evidence to support these claims, which the Commission report from June on the subject explicitly admits. This motion is itself part of a disinformation campaign against other states, part of a long-running record of NATO electoral interference. Take the record of our great NATO ally, the US, as a case in point. Since the end of the Second World War, they have endeavoured to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of whom were democratically elected, openly interfered in democratic elections in over 30 countries, attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs – often with our assistance – on the people of around 30 countries.

What of the ongoing EU and US imposed sanctions against Crimea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea – a form of economic terrorism. This weapon is used to hurt the ordinary people of these countries and very often they change their political position because of the pressure from the sanctions. That’s the worst of interference.


  Thierry Mariani (ID). – Madame la Présidente, j’ai aussi voté contre ce texte parce qu’en réalité, comme cela a été dit par le précédent orateur, il n’y a aucune preuve; il y a des insinuations, on alimente ce climat de guerre froide. En fin de compte, tous ceux qui sont contre l’opinion dominante, contre, dirais-je, les louanges permanentes de ce que fait l’Union européenne, se retrouvent condamnés.

J’ai voté aussi contre parce qu’en réalité, on voit très clairement que tout cela est dirigé contre deux ou trois pays. Je me permets de rappeler qu’en France, certes, Russia Today émet et que, jusqu’à présent, il n’y a jamais eu de constat de fausses informations.

Pour finir, la seule fausse information que nous avons eue massivement en France, ces dernières années, je m’en souviens, c’était sur la Syrie. C’était une fausse information véhiculée par l’État, par les médias d’État: on nous a baladé partout un faux maire d’Alep pour nous expliquer qu’Alep était dans telle ou telle situation, pour se rendre compte, quelques mois plus tard, que tout cela avait été totalement inventé.

En matière de fake news, je pense que nous n’avons pas beaucoup de leçons à donner.


  Antony Hook (Renew). – Madam President, the integrity of our elections is critical for the success in survival of democracy. A UK Government report concluded that we cannot say there was no foreign interference in the 2016 referendum. Anti-EU articles by Russian-backed media containing false information received widespread circulation, and in the UK our party-funding laws suffer terrible loopholes. Money can be donated by individuals and also by companies, not only companies in the UK, but those active overseas, and there is no practical way to be sure that money is not originated from another country or even a foreign government. Our newspapers are mostly owned by a tiny handful of people, many of whom do not even live in the UK. The need for reform is great. This is an issue on which Europe must work together.


  Catherine Rowett (Verts/ALE). – Madam President, some terrible events this week, both in Europe and beyond our borders, remind us that seismic shifts are afoot with respect to what kinds of opinions are normalised. The unspeakable is becoming speakable, the unthinkable is being thought. Of the money funding hatred and disruption, some clearly comes from within the EU from our own oligarchical elites, but evidence is growing that some is from foreign sources.

We need powerful internal regulations about electoral funding, but we must also address the root causes – the rising inequality, the unseemly wealth of the few in our increasingly cruel and intolerant society – and we need powerful international tools to combat interference by enemies overseas.

I’ve signed this resolution and voted in favour because our EU was founded on a politics of friendship. We need to restore the hearts and minds of the European people to allow the voice of peace, of friendship, of unity and diversity, to be heard. That voice needs to come through in every conversation between sister and brother across our continent, but for it to be heard we must adjust the volume on the voices of aggression and fear.


  Claude Moraes (S&D). – Madam President, I want to make the specific point that we mustn’t be complacent about the question of foreign interference and the integrity of our elections. We specifically asked for a special committee of inquiry and this was narrowly defeated today. I very much regret this because colleagues have talked about hard evidence on this issue and that is exactly what we were attempting to do, to ensure that what we do is based on facts and that we protect our elections and the democratic will of our people, both in our Member States and indeed in cross-border elections.

So this is an extremely important issue, given the increasing influence of disinformation, electoral fraud and reports of foreign interference in many of our Member States. Despite the fact that we don’t have the special committee, let us ensure that this House, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and our Commission –our Security Commissioner who has begun work on this issue – continue to do so and that we do not fall into complacency on protecting our elections.


  Christian Allard (Verts/ALE). – Madam President, I voted for this amended resolution, but there is one point I would like to make to my colleagues. When we use the word foreign, I think we have to be a bit careful that we are not targeting individuals, as opposed to targeting those whom we should target, which are states and non-state actors from third countries. Why do I say that? Because we have a climate just now of intolerance across the world and in the EU.

I’m a foreigner in my own country, the country I represent in this Parliament. We are all foreigners to one another, but we have to try to avoid using this sometimes pejorative term of ‘foreigner’. Let me give you one example. We are, in the Scottish Parliament, putting forward a bill just now to extend the franchise to everybody who lives in Scotland to vote. Let’s share our democratic values that make sure people can vote whether they are foreigners or not if they live in our states.


  Michaela Šojdrová (PPE). – Paní předsedající, já považuji tuto diskuzi a toto usnesení o vnějším ovlivňování voleb a dezinformacích ve vnitrostátních a evropských demokratických procesech za velmi důležité, a proto jsem ho podpořila.

Považuji také za důležitou i tu část, která vyzývá Evropskou komisi k větší podpoře jak finanční, tak personální skupiny East StratCom, která se zabývá právě šířením dezinformací, bojem proti dezinformacím v této části Evropy. Jsem ráda, že EP velkou většinou toto usnesení přijal.


  Claire Fox (NI). – Madam President, I voted against this motion because what does it say to and about voters? It says you were all duped; you had no agency to decide; you did not know what you were voting for.

Honest misinformation and fake news, we have heard far too much of it in this Parliament, including slanderous accusations in UK terms. Let me tell you now, Brexit voters did not vote because of Russian bots, or Facebook, but because we believe in sovereignty. I want a warning to my European colleagues about interference in European elections, which is a problem. The EU, sadly, interferes in nation—states’ elections. It interferes when they have referenda. Ireland, France, Denmark, UK; they say you got it wrong, vote again, vote again, vote again – until we vote your way! And what’s worse is this motion amounts to giving the EU the power to censor what we see and what we read. I vote against this motion because it gives more power to you and it attacks voters.


  Tatjana Ždanoka (Verts/ALE). – Madam President, I voted against this resolution. We just need to strengthen the democratic processes, but not by the means proposed. For example, to upgrade the EU East StratCom Task Force to a permanent structure entails significantly higher financing. In the very same resolution we find the justification – the doubled number of disinformation cases in 2019 when compared with the previous year. But the reason for that phenomenon is the doubling of the StratComm budget for this year, not vice versa. Demand creates supply.

As a subscriber of StratComm mailing, I see hundreds of fake disclosures. For example, the story on Russian TV telling us that it is immoral to dissect an animal in front of children was mentioned as a case of disinformation. But it was a real case in a Danish zoo. In such a way, any criticism can be qualified as disinformation. Is this what we will spend millions of euros on?


  Ангел Джамбазки (ECR). – Уважаема г-жо Председател, уважаеми колеги, подкрепих предложената резолюция относно външната намеса в изборите и дезинформацията в националните и европейските демократични процеси. Последните години безспорно ставаме свидетели на множество такива случаи на намеса както в Европейския съюз, така и в Щатите.

Няма как обаче да не спомена, че има и случаи, в които намесата не е външна за Съюза. Говоря за тези кръгове от неправителствени организации, финансирани неясно откъде, които се опитват да променят волята на нациите, на държавите, които сами искат да решават своите вътрешнополитически процеси. Свидетели сме на такива процеси в Унгария, в Полша, в България дори.

Свидетели сме как групи от неправителствени организации се намесват в изборите в България и в момента. Леви, зелени се обединяват в защита на организации като Хелзинкския комитет, които защитават откровено престъпници и доказани осъдени убийци. И това се случва в момента и тези организации недопустимо се намесват в изборния процес и се опитват да влияят на волята и на българските граждани, което аз не допускам и възразявам.


  Stanislav Polčák (PPE). – Paní předsedající, já jsem tento návrh usnesení jednoznačně podpořil, byť některé prostředky, s nimiž právě toto usnesení počítá, jsou skutečně sporné. Podle mého názoru to, co není sporné, je fakt, že jsou zde snahy třetích států, třetích mocností, ovlivňovat volby na národní nebo nadnárodní, evropské úrovni. Myslím si, že toto je fakt. Já bych chtěl ocenit třeba práci finské novinářky Jessikky Aro, která zdokumentovala existenci trollí farmy v Petrohradě. Takže pokud o tom někdo pochybuje, jak zde zaznělo, myslím, že ty důkazy jsou naprosto jasné a jsou to fakta.

Podívejte se, jakým způsobem, velmi razantně vyšetřují tyto útoky na své svobodné volby Spojené státy. Je to rázné vyšetřování, myslím si, že by si takovou ráznou akci zasloužil i evropský prostor. Já to maximálně podporuji, měli bychom samozřejmě dát podporu i médiím jak veřejným, tak i komerčním, sdílet informace a samozřejmě rozkrývat tyto sítě. To je velmi důležité.


  Petras Auštrevičius (Renew). – Madam President, I was stunned – as I’m sure many of you here were – to learn about the existence of the fake website of the European Parliament vulgarly named ‘EP Today’. According to the EU’s East StratCom Task Force which exposed the website, the majority of its content is republished from the Kremlin-based propaganda channel Russia Today, and this is clear evidence and a fact for those who still do not see and miss the propaganda all around.

We need to increase our citizens’ resilience and their capacity to distinguish fact from fake. In order to achieve this, we must boost our support to such actors as the team of the EU’s East StratCom Task Force, which tirelessly work to expose foreign interference and disinformation. Moreover, we must improve civic education and media literacy programmes and enable civil society organisations.

With these resolutions we rightly call for greater national and European attention, accompanied by the increased financial support for the activities I just mentioned. We also task the next High Representative of the Union to make the fight against disinformation a central foreign policy objective.

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