MEP: The Russians paid politicians, we want to know the names | iRADIO

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“Russia’s influence on European politics is really much greater than we assumed,” admits Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout after the revelation of the pro-Russian network that was based in Prague. In an interview for iROZHLAS.cz and Radiožurnál, he talks about how the report of the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) swayed the debate in the Netherlands. “If you focus on the politicians who have always spoken positively about Putin, they are those from the extreme right,” he reminds.



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Prague / Amsterdam / Brussels
1:00 p.m April 3, 2024

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“Russia has many more reasons to target EU policy and try to assert its influence,” says Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout for iROZHLAS.cz | Source: Photobank Profimedia

Last week on Wednesday, the Czech government expanded the sanctions list and included the alleged news website Voice of Europe, which was part of a pro-Russian influence operation. The Russians allegedly paid money to European politicians through him. Among them were politicians from Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, Hungary and also the Netherlands. How does this fact resonate in the Netherlands?
It was really big news. Of course, you can argue that we should have assumed this and been cautious, but to be completely honest – the fact that there are some politicians who like to repeat what Vladimir Putin and Russia are doing is one thing. But then actually getting paid for it, that’s another matter. And that’s really problematic.



Who is Bas Eickhout?

  • Dutch politician
  • Member of the European Parliament since 2009
  • for the Green faction, he is a candidate for the president of the next European Commission (the so-called Spitzenkandidat)

The biggest problem now is that we don’t know the names. And the Dutch secret service says we can’t release those names until the Czech secret service tells them. Although we already know that there were some Dutch politicians among them, we do not know who they were. And this is now being discussed a lot in the Netherlands. There is even a debate about it in parliament these days.

Any tips on who it could be? We generally do not know the specific names, although in connection with Germany there is talk of a connection with the extreme right and specifically the politician of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) Petr Bystroně.
If you focus on the politicians who have always spoken positively about Putin, they are those from the extreme right. So, of course, it comes to mind that it could affect parties from this spectrum. But they deny it.

Voice of Europe website | Photo: Utrecht Robin/ABACA | Source: Reuters

For example, Geert Wilders, who also gave an interview to the Voice of Europe website – he claimed that it is a great website that provides good information – but now he claims that he wants to know which politicians were paid by Russia. She chokes that he wasn’t among them.

In the Netherlands we even have an even more extreme right.

Which is led by Thiery Baudet, right? Did he say anything about it?
Yes, I mean Baudet’s side. But he also resolutely denied that he was involved in the Russian network. He continues to stand by what he said to the pro-Russian website, but denies ever being paid in any way.

Everyone denies it.

So, in the Netherlands, there is a will to investigate what happened and how, who specifically took Russian money? And even the far-right winner of the November parliamentary elections, Wilders, wants it…
Yes.

Thierry Baudet with Geert Wilders | Photo: Utrecht Robin/ABACA | Source: Reuters

A threat to democracy

In the press release of the Green faction, which you are a part of and for which you are running as a so-called spitzen candidate for the head of the future European Commission, you say: “We must be sure that none of the candidates in these elections (to the European Parliament) are paid by the Russians.” How is that what you want to achieve when the Secret Service doesn’t release names?
I think that we in the European Parliament should also advocate for an intensive investigation. Russia’s influence on European politics is really much greater than we assumed.

It was already obvious from their approach to energy policy. It was they who pushed European politicians to buy Russian mineral energy and essentially become dependent on Russian gas and oil. But we also know that there is a lot of influence from Russia through social media.

If the Russians were still paying politicians to do this, then I really consider it one of the biggest threats to our European democracy. We have to take it very seriously. Any politician who is paid by someone from outside should not be entitled to hold office.

Corruption in the European Parliament

On the iROZHLAS.cz server, we have been covering the scandal that stirred up the corridors of the European Parliament since its outbreak.

Speaking of foreign interference… It’s been more than a year since the Qatargate corruption scandal rocked the European Parliament. I saw that the non-profit organization Transparency International refers to this even in connection with the just-revealed case of Russian influence and urges that this is an even bigger problem. Do you agree with that?
I’m afraid they’re right. What was going on around Qatargate was probably just the desire of a few politicians to make some money. But what real political gain was there for Qatar, apart from some public image? They tried to soften the language in the resolutions that portrayed Qatar in a bad light. But in the case of Russia, it is much more serious.

Russia has many more reasons to target EU policy and try to assert its influence. What is happening in Ukraine, what is happening with the sanctions we want to impose on Russia, how we want to implement our energy policy.

The relationship between Europe and Russia is more straightforward. Russia wants to weaken Europe because a strong Europe is against Russia. The Russians want to weaken the European project. We have to fight against this because European unity is needed in this world more than ever.

The barriers of cooperation

And do you think that the investigation can start and, above all, bring some results before the European elections? They take place in two months, at the beginning of June.
We have to start it. Of course, it remains to be seen whether we will be able to uncover everything. We all probably know that Russia will try to influence the election during the campaign. Then we will have newly elected politicians, they will also need to be investigated.

We also know from the past that far-right politicians are more prone to cooperation with Russia. From pre-election predictions, we can conclude that their influence could increase in the next European Parliament. We should pay close attention to this.

But I think this is also important: for “center” politicians to send a clear signal that they will not cooperate with the extreme right that supports Putin. This is a real problem because we have political groupings in the EU that use Putin’s narrative. It is necessary to clearly define what cooperation with certain entities means. We only make them as strong as other politicians allow them to be.

Anna Urbanová

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