EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said Russia has stepped up disinformation campaigns to tarnish and weaken the EU’s democracy, and has pledged to step up efforts to prevent and deter malicious activity against the EU.
“Disinformation is especially ominous at this time of a pandemic because it is about the cost of lives,” the head of EU diplomacy said, speaking in Brussels on Monday at a hearing of the European Parliament’s special committee on foreign interference in European Union democratic processes, including disinformation.
“We have seen the proliferation of pro-Kremlin newsletters claiming that wearing masks is useless. Russia has also done everything to discredit the vaccines we use, while praising its own vaccine and Russia’s distribution mechanism,” Borrell said.
According to him, today disinformation is spreading on an “industrial scale”, and Russia is making a significant contribution to this. Disinformation tactics are diversified.
He cited as an example his visit to Moscow in early February. “I tried to start a constructive dialogue. The Russian authorities didn’t like it. They didn’t want me to talk about things that they don’t value: about human rights, for example, as well as about“ the Navalny case. We have seen deliberate and coordinated manipulation, a disinformation campaign against the European External Action Service (EMU). We quickly identified these maneuvers and exposed them for several weeks, “the head of European diplomacy continued.
In particular, he challenged Moscow’s thesis on the illegality of the restrictive measures applied by the European Union against Russia, since, according to him, international law was literally observed in these sanctions.
Borrell recalled that in recent years, the East StratCom Task Force was created under the EMU to identify such misinformation and coordinate efforts to expose it. This tool helped to better understand the tactics and techniques of state and non-state players in the field of disinformation and to start acting proactively.
The EU High Representative said that during a discussion at the European Council videoconference on February 26, EU leaders called for closer cooperation and coordination to prevent and respond to hybrid threats, including disinformation.
He assured that the EMU, together with the European Commission, will answer this call. “Our set of cyber diplomacy tools, launched in 2017, allows us to use the full range of diplomatic measures available to prevent, deter and respond to malicious acts in cyberspace. Let me remind you that in July and October last year, the European Union imposed sanctions for the first time on physical and legal persons responsible for serious cyberattacks, including those aimed at the heart of German democracy – the Bundestag, “Borrell said.
He said that in line with its cybersecurity strategy, the EMU will continue to work to “help protect governments, citizens and businesses from malicious cyberspace.”