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Commentary: EU finally makes a serious move against hostile disinformation

The good news is that finally, the EU officially calls Russia out as the main driver of hostile disinformation against Europe. This Action Plan is the most detailed and comprehensive document the EU has ever produced in the threat of hostile disinformation. Unlike previous EU documents on this issue, it clearly names Russia as the main actor behind the threat of hostile disinformation. It is the assessment of the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell that “disinformation by the Russian Federation poses the greatest threat to the EU”. Despite many EU officials, including several Commissioners who often try to downplay the Russian hostile role, the EU clearly states the obvious in this document. 

The Commission announces a strong move ahead of the expected threat of Russian interference in European Parliament elections. Just recently, over 60 European security experts and parliamentarians from more than 20 countries called for (https://www.europeanvalues.net/openletter/) the only European Council mandated body, the East Strategic Communications Task Force at the EEAS, to be provided with additional 30 experts with various language and specialist skills and an annual budget of at least 5 million EUR. The announced plan is to expand the EEAS strategic communications budget from  €1.9 million in 2018 to €5 million in 2019 (an increase by €3.1 million) and to bring in around 50 new specialists.

This is the most aggressive move the EU has ever announced on countering hostile disinformation. It is exactly what the European Parliament, several resolutions of the EU foreign ministers, or appeals by European security experts called for.

The only concern is whether the EEAS leadership will really put these financial and personal resources in practice and in time, mainly to the East Strategic Communications Task Force (the only European Council-mandated body for countering pro-Kremlin disinformation). In the past, Federica Mogherini and her team have ignored the obvious need to strengthen the East Strategic Communications Task Force, which is what cannot happen right now, in the context of the expected threat of Russian interference in European Parliament elections.