Alliance for Securing Democracy Releases European Policy Blueprint for Countering Authoritarian Interference

Brussels, Belgium – The Alliance for Securing Democracy, a transatlantic initiative housed at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, today released the European Policy Blueprint for Countering Authoritarian Interference in Democracies, a comprehensive report that analyzes European efforts to defend against authoritarian threats to democracy and makes recommendations to the EU and NATO, national governments, the private sector, media, and civil society to strengthen deterrence and build resilience to this long-term challenge.

“Long before the Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Europe was at the forefront of combating authoritarian attempts to undermine democratic institutions and processes,” said Laura Rosenberger and Jamie Fly, co-directors of the Alliance for Securing Democracy. “There are many best practices and lessons to be learned from European initiatives, especially at the national level, which we highlight in this report. However, as more authoritarian actors adopt Russia and China’s playbook and as their toolkit continues to evolve, Europe needs continent-wide buy-in on a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach to push back against authoritarian threats to democracy more strategically. ASD’s European Policy Blueprint for Countering Authoritarian Interference in Democracies provides recommendations for all pillars of democracy in Europe to build a more resilient society over the long term.”

The report details authoritarian regimes’ use of asymmetric tools to undermine democracy, including cyberattacks, information operations, malign financial influence, the subversion of political and social organizations, and strategic economic coercion. It assesses existing European efforts to address these tools, highlighting best practices as well as ongoing vulnerabilities. After outlining a strategic approach for all of Europe, the report makes detailed recommendations for various audiences. Ten key recommendations include:

  • Improve coordination to develop collective responses to foreign interference operations.
  • Protect the principles and institutions of democracy, remembering that our democracy is only as strong as we make it.
  • Raise the cost of interference in Europe.
  • Continue to push for transparency and accountability in the information and technology sectors.
  • Build more constructive public-private partnerships to identify and address evolving digital threats.
  • Tackle entrenched vulnerabilities in the financial sector that authoritarian actors exploit.
  • Develop effective responses to investments by authoritarian countries and their proxies in Europe’s strategic sectors.
  • Support local and independent media.
  • Identify the right messengers for raising awareness about foreign interference.
  • Depoliticize efforts to counter foreign interference and embrace non-partisan approaches.

The recommendations draw on extensive analysis of recent European and national legislation and were refined through extensive consultations with European and U.S. experts. The report builds on recommendations offered in ASD’s 2018 Policy Blueprint for Countering Authoritarian Interference in Democracies.


Support for ASD’s European Policy Blueprint

“Europe is concerned about its security. The creation of the Permanent Structured Co-operation for European Defense (PESCO) serves as proof. Yet in the area of authoritarian interference in our democracies – where Europe is faced with genuine, ongoing threats – individual countries are often left dealing with a common threat alone. As ASD’s blueprint recommends, we need more EU level action to effectively combat authoritarian interference,” said Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia and a member of the ASD Advisory Council.

“In order to effectively respond to attempts by foreign actors to spread disinformation and propaganda, we cannot rely on government task forces and responses alone,” said Ana Palacio, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain and a member of the ASD Advisory Council. “We must adopt policies that empower our citizens, help them learn to discriminate between reliable and unreliable sources on new platforms, and help build resilience in our societies. The policies put forth in ASD’s Blueprint support a whole-of-society response and provide an effective roadmap for navigating and withstanding future efforts to undermine European democracy.”

“Protecting our democratic institutions from foreign interference is imperative to the success of all EU member states,” said Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “The EU has made great strides in limiting the impact of foreign disinformation, but we cannot be naïve and we must step up our actions. ASD’s Blueprint includes interesting recommendations for further engaging tech companies, the media, and civil society to meet this evolving challenge together.”

“By recommending policies that prioritize cooperation among EU member states, European institutions, private-sector partners and civil society organisations, ASD’s Policy Blueprint outlines a society-wide response to disinformation that can effectively limit the spread of this phenomena and its devastating effect on democracy without resorting to content control that limits our freedom of speech,” said Miriam Lexmann, Member-Elect of the European Parliament.

“We in Europe and the United States fail to see the full picture of authoritarian interference because we limit our view to one sector or one country,” said Kristine Berzina, Senior Fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy. “The problem democracies face is not just an information operation in Finland, a cyber attack Ukraine. Asymmetric attacks build on each other, and only when we see that illicit finance, disinformation, economic coercion, illicit finance and cyber attacks are all part of a bigger onslaught against us will we be able to push back effectively.”

“As more actors have been adopting Kremlin’s playbook, we see also increasing presence of China and its interference in transatlantic democracies through strategic economic investments,” said Dr. Nad’a Kovalcikova, Fellow and Program Manager at the Alliance for Securing Democracy. “Europe needs to approach the variety of actors and tools in a holistic, coordinated and more strategic manner.”

To read the full report, click here.

To read the executive summary, click here.

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