Varadkar concern over potential external interference in 2019 European elections

The Irish Premier said he and other EU leaders have discussed concerns about potential external interferences in the 2019 European elections.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned a European Parliament “full of nationalists, populists and extremists” could bring some of its work to a halt.

It warned the matter is a “serious issue” that leaders “need to be across”.

Allegations have been made that both Russian and Chinese hackers may have attempted to influence the 2016 United States presidential election which saw Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Mr Varadkar did not specify where the external interference he spoke of might come from, instead saying it could come from “many sources”.

The next election to the European Parliament is set to take place at the end of May 2019, following the United Kingdom’s planned exit from the European Union in March.

The number of MEPs elected is expected to decrease from 751 to 705 following Brexit.

The poll is likely to be watched carefully across the world following political turbulence in a number of the current EU 28 member states.

Mr Varadkar said the concern about potential interference in the election was discussed by EU leaders recently.

“I would certainly be concerned about external interference in European elections, it can come from many sources, I wouldn’t particularly hone in on any particular source,” he said.

“We do know there has been election interference in quite a number of elections and protest movements and so on.

“That is something as EU leaders we are quite concerned with, we discussed it in Brussels earlier in December.”

Strasbourg
Strasbourg

Mr Varadkar described the potential of external interference as a “real risk”, but said there is no easy remedy.

“What people can’t come up with is an easy solution as to what you actually do about it other than notifying it and calling it out and saying it is happening,” he said.

“European elections tend to be low turnout elections, people often use them as an opportunity to register a protest and they are very vulnerable to interference and external actors.

“Bear in mind the EU Parliament is a very powerful institution.

“If we had a parliament full of nationalists, populists and extremists it could bring a lot of the work we do in Europe to a halt, so it is serious issue and one we need to be across.”