Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday said he would not sign a law put forward by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that would have effectively meant that no small party in Poland would have a chance at European Parliament elections next year. “I’ve decided to veto this bill. This change would mean that the effective electoral threshold would rise to as much as 16.5 percent from 5 percent,” Duda said on public television.
Editorials: Democracy is under threat from the malicious use of technology. The EU is fighting back | Julian King/The Guardian
Alongside traditional canvassing, political parties can now get their messages across using the internet and social media, tools that have not only made it possible to reach large numbers of people but also, increasingly, to micro-target individuals with tailormade messages. This should, in theory, mean an electorate better informed than ever before. But those same tools can easily be hijacked by malicious actors – both state and non-state – to subvert our democratic systems and be used as a weapon against us. And unfortunately, such interference has become increasingly common in the past few years, be it regarding a referendum on an EU agreement with Ukraine or a US presidential election. Preventing our democratic processes, the very building blocks of our society, from being affected is not a concern for the future. It is a task of the utmost importance now, one that requires immediate action. Indeed, we have been working on addressing this threat for a while and are looking to step up our response, together with our member states.
European leaders on Monday called for a new presidential election in Venezuela, saying they will “swiftly” levy a new round of sanctions targeting those close to President Nicolas Maduro. Despite widespread calls for a return to democratic rule, Venezuela’s election showed the country was further straying from constitutional order, the European Union’s foreign ministers said. The threat from the EU’s foreign ministers drew backlash from Maduro, who said that and any more sanctions will only further hurt Venezuelans. “This is the European Union that arrogantly wants to put its nose in Venezuela’s business,” Maduro said. “Enough of this old colonialism.”
The European Union Mission to Liberia has reportedly deployed ten long-term Election Observer Teams across the country ahead of next month’s elections scheduled for October 10. The EU said the group of election experts consists of one woman and one man each. They are part of the EU Election Observation Mission to Liberia that will observe the Presidential and Legislative Elections. After three days of intensive briefings and preparations in Monrovia, the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in Liberia deployed all 20 long-term-observers and drivers into the regions of the country. Ten woman and ten men from 20 different European countries are observing the Presidential and legislative elections in all 15 Liberian counties.
A more robust EU cyber agency could help member states defend their elections against “hybrid attacks”, the European Commission has said. Speaking at the launch of new cybersecurity proposals in Brussels on Tuesday (19 September), Julian King, the Commission’s security chief, said some hacker attacks had “political objectives”. “They can target our democratic institutions and can be used with other tools, such as propaganda and fake news, in hybrid attacks,” he said. “We need to be as serious about security online as we are offline,” he said. He also hailed Finland’s new “centre of excellence” on hybrid warfare, which is designed to help EU countries fight novel assaults. King did not name Russia, but Russian hackers and media recently attacked the French and US elections.
The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have announced to provide an additional 1.6 million euros grant as part of their electoral assistance to Nepal to reinforce their cooperation with the Election Commission of Nepal. The grant will be used to provide needful electoral assistance to the EC through the UNDP-managed Electoral Support Project (ESP), according to a press statement issued jointly by UNDP and EU Office in Kathmandu on Wednesday.
Angola has rejected conditions demanded by an EU election observer mission that had been preparing to witness next month’s polls in the country, state media reported on Monday. The European team had called for unfettered access to polling stations across the vast southern African nation during the August 23 vote. “So this is Africa. And we do not expect anyone to impose on us their means of observing elections or to give lectures,” said Foreign Minister Georges Chicoti according to the Journal de Angola newspaper. “The invitation stands. But we do not want to have separate agreements with all of the organisations (sending observers).”
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey may hold a second referendum on whether to continue with European Union accession talks, following a planned vote on April 16 that could give him sweeping new powers. “Right now we are holding a referendum on April 16 and after that we could choose to do a second one on the (EU) accession talks and we would abide by whatever our people would say there,” Erdogan told a joint forum with Britain in the southern city of Antalya. His comments came a day after he vowed to review all political and administrative ties with the EU, including a deal to curb illegal migration, but it would maintain economic relations with the bloc.
As the European project grew from six reasonably cohesive members to 28 more diverse and less controllable ones, it was faced with two big questions. One was what to do if a country decided to leave. The response of the United States to South Carolina’s secession in 1860 seemed excessive, so instead the treaty was amended to include Article 50, which sets out the procedure for exit. The hope was that it would never be used, but now Britain is invoking it. Untried though the procedure is, one thing seems certain: it will be long-drawn-out and painful for everyone. The second question was what to do if a country started to trample on the democratic standards that are a condition of membership. Europe has had to consider this issue before, in 2000, when Austria brought Jörg Haider, a far-right politician, into a coalition government. The EU tried to isolate Austria by freezing contacts, but when that failed to oust Mr Haider it gradually thawed, and has since tacitly accepted governments sustained by extremist parties. In the 2000s several commentators suggested that Italy under Silvio Berlusconi would have failed the Copenhagen criteria for membership because he wielded such enormous power over the Italian media, but at the time nothing was done about it.
Russia’s meddling in the US election is well documented. It is now accused of doing the same in France. France is a more important target for Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader abhors the idea of blocs of countries acting together. Multi-national groupings like the EU give their members a combined clout he cannot match leading a country whose economy is no bigger than Italy’s. It makes sense for Mr Putin to seek the break-up of the European Union. His intervention in the US elections helped bring to power a man who championed Brexit and whose rhetoric undermines the EU. Mr Putin knows Marine Le Pen can helped deliver his strategic goals in Europe. The far-right French presidential candidate has threatened to pull France out of the eurozone and a hold referendum on EU membership. Many economists doubt the single European currency can survive the former and predict an ensuing economic catastrophe across Europe. The EU is also unlikely to remain intact if a majority of French people voted for a Frexit.