An EU rapporteur is raising concerns about foreign interference in the European Union, in particular, that coming from the communist regime in China.
“We cannot accept that there is still no task force monitoring interference coming from China,” stated Sandra Kalniete, a Latvian member of the European Parliament, in her draft report (pdf) released last month. She said China’s foreign interference actions were committed to “undermining democratic functioning in order to gain influence.”
Kalniete also is a rapporteur for the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, including Disinformation.
She presented her report on Nov. 9 during a livestreamed European inter-parliamentary committee meeting.
The report was based on more than 40 committee hearings from over 100 experts since September last year. While Russian influence was an issue addressed in the report, the bigger concern was clearly the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
One area of influence was elite capture, the report states, naming former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin who “actively engaged in promoting Chinese interests in France,” as well as former Czech Commissioner Stefan Fule for “having worked for CEFC China Energy.”
Raffarin, 73, was France’s prime minister for three years until May 2005. He was touted by former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as demonstrating “sincere friendship” in 2003 when the former prime minister visited China amid the height of the SARS epidemic.
In recent years, he has often been quoted in China’s state-run media. In April, he was quoted by CGTN, the international arm of China’s state-run broadcaster CCTV, saying that Europe and China must cooperate and “there is no future without China.”
In September 2019, Raffarin was one of six people receiving a friendship medal, an award given by Beijing to foreigners who make contributions to China. He was quoted by China’s state-run media Xinhua saying that he was “sincerely pleased” for receiving the medal, given his decades-long work to promote ties between the two nations.
CEFC China Energy, an oil conglomerate that made billions of dollars in Russia, eastern Europe, and parts of Africa, was founded by disgraced Chinese oil tycoon Ye Jianming. Last year, a U.S. Senate report exposed “questionable transactions” between President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and Chinese nationals including Ye.
The Chinese conglomerate went on a shopping spree in the Czech Republic in 2015, buying up stakes in several local companies. The company went on to hire influential Czechs, including the country’s former Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, as well as Fule, who was the European commissioner for neighborhood and enlargement from 2010 until 2014.
More CCP Influence
Another area of concern was Chinese state propaganda, the report states, pointing out how CCP-sponsored media content “disguised as journalism” had been distributed in newspapers.
In May, Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists issued a report warning about China “mobilizing more novel tactics such as disinformation” as the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread.
The report highlighted Italian state-run news agency ANSA, how it began to carry China’s state-run media content after signing a memorandum of understanding with Xinhua in 2019.
“This has translated into ANSA running 50 Xinhua stories a day on its news wire, with Xinhua taking editorial responsibility for the content while ANSA serves as a tool of distribution,” the report states.
A recent report (pdf) by the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank headquartered in London, showed China’s increasing media presence in southeastern Europe, in countries including Bosnia, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Serbia.
The report also warned about the presence of around 200 CCP-funded Confucius Institutes in Europe.
“Confucius Institutes serve as a lobbying platform for Chinese economic interests and for the Chinese intelligence service and the recruitment of spies,” according to the report.
Some European universities had already terminated their cooperation with the Chinese institute because of “risks of Chinese espionage and interference,” the report states, such as Germany’s University of Düsseldorf in 2016 and the University of Hamburg in 2020.
Late last month, Germany’s Education Minister Anja Karliczek issued a letter ordering all universities in the country to review their connections with the institute.
There are currently 36 Confucius Institutes in the United States, according to the National Association of Scholars.
Kalniete offered a number of recommendations in her report, including better sanctions against actors behind the interference.