Legal loopholes and the risk of foreign interference

In-Depth Analysis 05-02-2023

There is ample evidence that malign foreign actors are engaging in foreign interference in the politics and democracy of the European Union (EU) and its Member States. Much of this foreign interference escapes identification or censure by exploiting loopholes in the EU’s legislative and policy acquis. This in-depth analysis identifies some of those loopholes and proposes measures to close them. An EU focal point would significantly improve the EU’s capacity to investigate and respond strategically to foreign interference, its strategic drivers and related financial flows. Foreign interference should be restricted by criminalisation, sanctions and a ban on foreign involvement in third-party election campaigning. Legitimate foreign influence should be made more transparent by enhancements to the EU Transparency Register and stricter ‘revolving door’ requirements. To minimise online manipulative practices, political candidates and incumbents should formally pledge to avoid them, the public relations industry should be encouraged to scrutinise its ethical codes and a compendium could be prepared with a view to eventual restrictions. In all these activities, the EU should take care to ensure that its measures are compatible with fundamental rights and do not have the impact of shrinking civil space.