Next year’s European elections are at risk of Russian meddling unless action is taken warns Sajjad Karim MEP.
Dr Karim’s warning comes as the European Parliament begins its one-year countdown to its next polls.
Speaking at a conference on the threat Russian electoral interference in European democracies, Mr Karim said: “Russian interference in democratic elections has reached new, unprecedented heights. Not since the Cold War have European and democratic states faced such disregard for democracy and the rule of law, backed by a sophisticated state-sponsored campaign of disinformation.
“In the past week there have been 11 proven cases of disinformation emanating from Russia, and in the past year, there have been almost a thousand cases. It would be naive to think that this problem will go away and that the next European elections are not a target for Russia.
“It wouldn’t take much for Russia to destabilise the European Parliament by helping to bolster the pro-Russian far right and far left in the parliament. Putin will take any opportunity to destabilise our institutions and weaken our will in standing up to his regime.
“Europe is worryingly vulnerable to state-sponsored disinformation campaigns. Technology has leapt far ahead of policy, and in age where millions of people can be reached in seconds, our ability to respond to fake news and Russian bots is lagging behind.”
“The Parliament risks being held to ransom by extremist parties after next year’s elections, essentially in a state of paralysis. If we do not take action now we will be surrendering our political stability and democratic values to the whim of the Russian government.”
The United Kingdom will not be participating in the next EU elections in May 2019 after its scheduled exit in March 2019.
He added: “The UK will not be returning any MEPs in the next European election, but we are all at risk of Russian interference and must work together to defend our democracies. The West is being tested, every democratic state must show a united front or risk our way of life.”