“The online anarchy of election rules must end”: Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, has good reasons to be nervous. From 23rd to 26th of May, all eyes will turn to Brussels as the next European elections will decide on the future trajectory almost half a billion EU citizens. But after the string of cyber attacks on elections from the USA to CEE countries Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia and the Czech Republic, it would be naive to assume that the EU elections would not be targeted. But is Brussels prepared? “With anti-Europeans on their way to winning more than one-third of seats in the next European Parliament, the stakes in the May 2019 election are unusually high”, warns a new report of the European Council of Foreign Relations published this month. The EU increasingly resembles a battleship drifting through a continent in crisis: Brexit looms over Europe, extreme right-wing and eurosceptic parties are mushrooming and political divisions seem to be digging its trenches deeper every week.
In the middle of this uncertainty, the political weight of the approaching EU elections should not be underestimated. But will the promise of “free and fair” elections hold true?
”New rules to better protect our democratic processes from manipulation by third countries or private interests”: When EU President Jean-Claude Juncker was stepping in front of the cameras for his last State of the Union Address, he aimed to calm down the widespread fears of EU citizens of cyber meddling in their political future. According to the EU’s large-scale poll of 2018, more than 60% of respondents across 28 states were concerned about elections being manipulated through cyber attacks.
To understand Europe’s electoral anxieties, we have to turn back three years to the 2016 US presidential election. The news hit on both sides of the Atlantic like a bomb: The United States – after all a global superpower, the world’s strongest economy and home of Silicon Valley – was exposed as painfully vulnerable in the digital age.