Borrell: EU doesn’t have resources to fight disinformation from China

The European Union’s foreign service doesn’t have the resources nor the authority to effectively counter hybrid attacks coming from China, its foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said today.

“Today, we don’t have a mandate to study disinformation about China,” Borrell, who heads the European External Action Service (EEAS), told members of the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference.

He said the bloc had been under permanent pressure in the past year from countries distorting information and spreading disinformation to advance political interests. But while the EU has ramped up its work to debunk disinformation campaigns from Moscow, “We have very little resources to study disinformation from China.”

He added that EEAS lacked the “required” resources to counter Chinese campaigns to influence European politics.

Hybrid attacks “have been targeting our democratic values, our information space and even our infrastructure, our critical infrastructure” during the pandemic, he said, calling the global health crisis “a real testing ground for new hybrid tactics.”

The EU’s foreign service’s disinformation department has a dedicated East Stratcom unit looking at Russian disinformation campaigns. Other officials monitor campaigns from across the world, but they are understaffed and underresourced to handle the increasing number of hybrid attacks.

Borrell said Europe was a disadvantage in its efforts to protect itself from Russia’s disinformation campaigns targeting Europe: “We don’t have the capacity to produce massively information presenting our views,” he said, adding the EU only had the ability to flag and call out disinformation campaigns as “an answer” to massive disinformation campaigns.

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