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EU launches task force to combat Russian interference in European elections

The task force will be temporary, but leaders are eyeing permanent measures. The Russian influence network reportedly aimed to appoint agents as employees of MEPs
Belgium Ukraine Russian influence
Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Photo via Eastnews.ua.
EU launches task force to combat Russian interference in European elections

EU leaders decided on Wednesday to launch a temporary crisis task force to centralize the monitoring and sharing of information on Russia’s attempts to interfere in June’s European elections, Euractiv reported.

The decision comes after Czech and Polish authorities uncovered what they said is a pro-Russian influence operation in Europe allegedly involving members of the European Parliament and candidates for June’s EU elections, and after Belgium uncovered Russian influence groups meddling in European elections.

The temporary crisis taskforce will be set up under an Integrated Political Crises response (IPCR) arrangement, which allows the country holding the rotatory EU Council Presidency, currently Belgium, to support rapid coordination and decision-making in crises, according to Euractiv.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced that after the temporary task force, permanent systems will be considered.

“The Commission, the European External Action Service, the Parliament, and the EU Council will monitor very closely what’s going on to coordinate information and pass it on to national bodies and authorities so that they can intervene if necessary,” De Croo said during an EU leaders summit on Wednesday night.

Before the summit, De Croo and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala sent a letter on 16 April urging swift action by EU leaders. The letter added that the uncovered propaganda network also aimed at “appointing people active within this network as employees of (newly elected) MEPs,” citing Belgian intelligence services.

The letter also pushed to reassess the mandate of the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to allow them to investigate cross-border foreign interference. However, De Croo said that changing this mandate “is something that takes time to do properly” and will be done after the EU elections.

Following the Czech intelligence services’ investigations, the Czech Republic sanctioned the media Voice of Europe and two individuals involved and urged the EU to add them to its blocklist. Despite no agreement yet, the Czechs are pushing for this to happen before the EU elections, an EU diplomat told Euractiv.

  • On 12 April 2024, Belgian intelligence services uncovered evidence of Russian influence groups meddling in European elections to bolster pro-Russian candidates.
  • On 9 April 2024, the Washington Post reported that a Russian propaganda operation aimed at weakening American support for Ukraine and discrediting Ukraine in the public eye was exposed through leaked documents.
  • On 30 December 2023, Russia intensified efforts to sow division in French support for Ukraine, with the goal of weakening NATO resolve, similar to interference campaigns in Germany.
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