Jourová: EP must respond to revelations Russia paying politicians

Věra Jourová

Revelations a Czech-based Russian influence network was paying politicians in several states have made headlines around Europe. Czechia’s European commissioner says she sensed Moscow was using such dirty tricks – and says steps should be taken to weed dodgy politicians out of the European Parliament.

Last week Prime Minister Petr Fiala dropped some bombshell news: The Czech secret service had uncovered a Russian network seeking to influence the European Parliament, to which elections take place in two months.

Viktor Medvedchuk | Photo: Commons,  CC BY 4.0 DEED

It was soon reported that the group, including pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, were funnelling cash to anti-establishment politicians in EU states, including, allegedly, Petr Bystroň of Alternative for Germany.

The Czech member of the European Commission, Věra Jourová, discussed the matter in an interview with Czech Radio on Wednesday.

“It didn’t give me any pleasure, but it’s true that I gave interviews at the turn of March in which I said that as well as Russia using disinformation it probably also worked through various political actors; they would be on Russia’s payroll. So it turns out I was correct, I just didn’t have the data.”

Ms. Jourová, who is vice president of the European Commission for values and transparency, outlined how she saw Russia’s efforts to impact politics around the continent.

Photo: René Volfík,

“Vladimir Putin can’t directly influence public opinion in European countries himself. He can’t put anything into Czech, Slovak or German minds from the Kremlin. He needs local language and local allies; they either believe that Russia offers us a better future, or this involves financial transactions, or perhaps corruption.”

The Czech commissioner says that it would be wise of the European Parliament to respond to the scandal before the elections that take place between June 6 and 9.

“The Parliament has two more sessions before the elections and it should make a statement on the matter and condemn it. It should make it clear that such practices are unacceptable to the Parliament.”

Ms. Jourová said that steps may also be taken to increase oversight – and that she should be involved, given her values and transparency brief.

Photo: Barbora Navrátilová,  Radio Prague International

“I think that in those debates we will hear various proposals to tighten up the mechanisms in such a way that only people with clean reputations reach Parliament. Naturally it won’t be possible to achieve that 100 percent. It’s true that MEPs today have to make property and conflict of interest declarations, but it’s possible the Parliament will come out with something stricter.”

The Czech-based Russian influence network has been broken up, though in total only two individuals and one company were implicated.

Indeed Věra Jourová told Czech Radio that one of the few guarantees in today’s uncertain world is that Russia will do its best to influence the European elections. This it will do via campaigns tailor-made for individual countries, she said.