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Ursula von der Leyen doubles down on plan to create shield against foreign interference

Ursula Von der Leyen pitches plan to shield EU from foreign interference if re-elected
Ursula Von der Leyen pitches plan to shield EU from foreign interference if re-elected Copyright AP / Rolf Vennenbernd/(c) dpa-POOL
Copyright AP / Rolf Vennenbernd/(c) dpa-POOL
By Abby Chitty
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The European Commission chief has once more talked about her proposal for a so-called "European democracy shield" which would protect Europe from foreign interference following the Pravfond scandal fallout.

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Ursula von der Leyen has reiterated her plan to create a European "shield for democracy" to deal with foreign interference.

The European Commission president was in Sweden on Monday to meet with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Deputy PM Ebba Busch at a small-scale forestry north of Stockholm.

During the press conference, von der Leyen was asked how Europe can prevent the kind of negative foreign influence seen in the recently revealed Pravfond case. The Commission president's answer was that countries need to "join forces at the European level".

The Pravfond case, as originally reported by major European outlets on Sunday, revealed that a Russian organisation spent millions of euros across 48 European countries and elsewhere to fund propaganda and other campaigns.

Also known as The Fund for Support and Protection of the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad, Pravfond was used to pay for the defence teams of convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout and assassin Vadim Krasikov.

The leaked internal documents from Pravfond obtained by the Danish public broadcaster DR from a European intelligence source and shared with a consortium of European journalists also show that the organisation had several former Russian intelligence officers working as heads of its operations across Europe.

Von der Leyen's shield would be tasked with detecting and removing online disinformation — building on the work of the EU's digital rulebook, the Digital Services Act (DSA) — and "inoculating" the bloc against malign influence by enabling Europeans to recognise threats.

The Commission chief first spoke about the proposal in mid-May, as the bloc braced itself for an expected wave of disinformation and malign interference in the run up to June’s European elections.

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Von der Leyen pitches plan to shield EU from foreign interference if re-elected