The EU might as well go down the drain if foreign meddling corrupts May’s elections

President Tusk meets Prime Minister of Armenia
Copyright: European Union
Date: 05/03/2019
Location:Bruxelles – BELGIQUE

The EU elections will take place in about two months’ time but anti-European together with foreign parties are most likely going to try to exert influence on the upcoming outcome. Anti-establishment parties are expected to change the current balance and status quo if the two mainstream parties, the conservative EPP (European People’s Party) and the socialist party S&D (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats), lose their majority and they will have to seek agreements with the other parties to approve any legislation and form policies.

The president of the European Council, Mr. Donald Tusk, expressed his strong concerns last week regarding the intervention of foreign countries to the EU elections in their attempt to create disorder and affect the democratic choices of the EU citizens.

Is Russia targeting May elections?

According to the latest annual threat assessment produced by the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service, Russia is expected to try to corrupt the elections of the European Parliament by endorsing anti-EU parties from large EU countries like Germany, Italy and France. More specifically, Mikk Marran, director general of the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service and author of the report, mentioned: “Russia is very likely to try to intervene in the European Parliament elections to secure as many seats as possible for pro-Russian or eurosceptical political forces”.

But how could Russia accomplish that? Mikk Marran states that some of the means to be used involve Russian-controlled media, organization of high-level meetings, spreading of fake news in social media and financial assistance where necessary. Thus, it is not an over-exaggeration that the EU officials have been greatly worrying about the impact of such actions on the imminent EU elections.

Populist upturn creates turbulences

The populist parties in the bloc are projected to succeed historic wins at the expense of the mainstream ones. The stakes are extremely high considering that the anti-EU establishment parties could win more than a third of the seats at the next European Parliament. A possible effect could be that a combined alignment of ideas by these parties could lead to the annulment of the EU sanctions against Russia, the closure of national borders and increase of anti-migration sentiments and further impediments on the EU foreign trade agenda.

Therefore, it is not difficult to understand that the parties benefited by the rise of far-right politics are parties such as La League and Five Star Movement in Italy, National Front in France and Hungary’s Fidesz party of Victor Orban.

EU concerns and countermeasures

The European Union officials and leaders have been fearing for the result of the EU elections and attempt to create awareness and gather together the EU democratic forces. Particularly Donald Tusk said last week during a press conference in Brussels: “There are external anti-European forces, which are seeking – openly or secretly – to influence the democratic choices of Europeans, as was the case with Brexit and a number of election campaigns across Europe. And it may again be the case with the European elections in May. Do not allow political parties that are funded by external forces, hostile to Europe, to decide on key priorities for the EU, and the new leadership of European institutions. We cannot wait for the renaissance of Europe – the renaissance of Europe must start now.”

As far as the European Parliament is concerned, the MEPs assessed the current state of EU-Russia political relations yesterday and voted in favour of continuing to impose sanctions if Russia continues to violate international law, revise the partnership by limiting cooperation and increase the financial assistance and human resources for the EU‘s East Stratcom Task Force. Their aim is to challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns which could mould the result of the elections in May.

What is more, the European Commission has created an action plan to tackle disinformation online and with the contribution of social media companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter attempts to protect EU citizens from misleading false information and prevent any external party from interfering with the elections’ outcome.

Is thus the bloc prepared to respond efficiently and ensure democratic and fair elections? Unfortunately, the latter is hard to accomplish because the results of this plan are still not satisfactory and have fallen short of expectations. Also, the cases of the Brexit referendum and 2016 US elections outcomes have clearly showcased that elections can been distorted to a decisive extent. Further, time is not with the EU side which is running out of options now. Instead, the EU should have built its bulletproof EU election armour months and years ago.

All in all, it seems that the European Union is positioned with its back against the wall as foreign meddling is expected to hit hard and shake the EU project foundations in May leaving the European citizens defenceless to external and populist influences.

Let’s all hope that the ballots on 23-26 May 2019 will show the true democratic will of the European Citizens and not a corrupted result moulded by demagogy and hackers.

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