EU expands task force aimed at combatting alleged Russian propaganda

An EU agency, East Stratcom, will receive an influx of cash and personnel to fight what the West calls Russian propaganda news, Deutsche Welle reports. The decision to give the controversial body a boost comes ahead of 2017 elections in several European countries.

The task force, which was formed as part of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in early 2015 to tackle what the EU sees as Russian propaganda, will now receive extra resources, Germany's Deutsche Welle (DW) reported, citing a spokesperson for the EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

So far, there are 10 people working for the agency, DW said, explaining that they are searching for what they believe to be fake news and then writing “disproof” statements.

Despite the fact that the origins of the stories are “very hard to trace,” as DW suggests, and “whether Russia is behind them is hard to tell,” EU officials have decided to reinforce the organization ahead of upcoming elections in key European states this year, citing fears of external meddling.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is alleged to be facing a heightened Russian disinformation campaign ahead of the German elections this year, AFP reported. Citing its source at East Stratcom, AFP said that the task force had found Merkel to having already been under increasing attack last year. The same source alleged that upcoming elections in France and the Netherlands could also be externally targeted.

Meanwhile, a MEP told RT that the organization battling the perceived Russian threat “is not credible.”

Stelious Kouloglou, an MEP for the Greek ruling center-left Syriza party, said: “It's a weapon of psychological welfare, it's a weapon of propaganda, so it's not credible to me both as a journalist and as a European deputy.

Just to blame somebody else for the problems Europe faces “is very bad for Europe,” the Greek politician said. “Europe is going in the wrong direction, and it’s not Moscow's fault,” Kouloglou told RT. “We don't look at our problems and just blame others, play the blame game,” he added.

“If Trump won, it's not because of the Russian intervention, whether it was real or not. Trump won because he exploited the mistakes that have been made by the American oligarchy, by the 1 percent of those who are getting richer, although 99 percent of the population of the US are getting poorer. The same direction Europe is going. So, we can't blame somebody else. If we do that, it will be a fatal mistake and the extreme right will profit from that. We have to address the real problems Europe is facing,” Kouloglou said.

READ MORE: EU resolution on 'Russian propaganda' is attack on media freedom & stinks of hypocrisy

In November, the EU Parliament debated and then voted on a resolution that sought to establish measures “to tackle Russian and Islamic State propaganda.” The controversial non-legislative document called for the EU to “respond to information warfare by Russia,” which was placed alongside propaganda by the Islamic terrorist group. RT was cited as one of the alleged propaganda “tools,” with the resolution authors claiming Moscow has an influence on media markets and societies in the EU and other countries.