European Green Deal: Mapping perceptions in Central and Eastern Europe

The European Green Deal, a political initiative of the European Commission aiming to reach climate neutrality by 2050, became a target of disinformation in the Czech information space already in early 2021. It became a polarizing issue especially prior to the Czech parliamentary election in October 2021. In 2022, the debate around the Green Deal acquired a new dimension due to the unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine and the associated issue of energy dependence and diversification. Moreover, with the Czech presidency of the EU Council in July, the Czech debate about the Green Deal is expected to intensify in the upcoming months.

The Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI), in cooperation with partners from International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Beacon Project, is monitoring the public debate about the European Green Deal, climate change, and energy-related issues from June to December 2022. This monitoring is part of a larger IRI initiative that has been taking place in five EU countries simultaneously.The monitoring covers political messaging about the Green Deal and its penetration of outlets such as news websites and Facebook groups.The goal of the monitoring was to examine in what context local actors discuss the Green Deal and energy-related topics, what were the dominant narratives, who were the leaders of the debate, and particularly if (and how) the topic became a target of disinformation campaigns. Besides mapping the general online debate and related disinformation, part of our goal was also to explore how relevant stakeholders engage in strategic communication on the topic and possibly counter any circulating manipulative discourse.
Our research revealed a strongly negative public debate on the Green Deal, hijacked by domestic politics and economic issues, driven mainly by the right-wing, national-conservative, political opposition. These actors drew inaccurate causal relations between the Green Deal and the current energy and economic crisis. Domestic politics dominated the debate, and the Green Deal became a scapegoat, used as a tool for spreading anti-government and anti-EU narratives. A consistent and constructive debate on the actual content and goals of the Green Deal, or on climate change in general, is largely missing both in political messaging and the general online debate.