The Foreign Affairs Council started with a discussion on current affairs. Foreign ministers briefly reviewed the main pressing issues on the international agenda, including the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Venezuela and in Syria. The adoption of Council conclusions on the situation in Nicaragua was also mentioned, as well as the first designations under the new EU sanctions regime against the use and proliferation of chemical weapons. The High Representative and foreign ministers also referred to the bomb attack in Bogotá, Colombia of 17 January 2019, as well as to recent developments on Yemen.
We discussed disinformation, in particular in view of the European elections. There was a very strong focus on the need to look at all different kinds of disinformation, coming come from both inside and outside the EU, and taking various forms . We decided to move forward rapidly together on this issue, with a lot of determination to implement the action plan
Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
The Council discussed the action plan against disinformation presented by the High Representative and European Commission on 5 December 2018. Foreign ministers expressed strong support for the joint action plan.
They exchanged views on the implementation of the action plan, focusing on its external aspects. They underlined the need to build a common and holistic response to the security challenges posed by foreign interference, while respecting national approaches and protecting freedom of expression and of the media.
They highlighted the creation of an EU “Rapid Alert System” to share expertise and best practices, and to promote coordinated action, notably through awareness raising campaigns. Ministers stressed the need to engage with civil society to tackle disinformation, including with CSOs, NGOs, business and academia, as well as to work with international partners, in particular NATO and the G7, to address disinformation more efficiently. They also underlined the importance of contributing to strengthening the resilience of neighbouring countries.
The Council concluded that disinformation should be addressed in the broader context of foreign interference, hybrid threats and strategic communication, with strengthened EU’s operational capacities. This includes the reinforcement of the three strategic communication task forces of the European External Action Service, which were set up in order to promote fact-based narratives about the EU in the Eastern neighbourhood, the Southern neighbourhood and the Western Balkans.
EU – League of Arab States relations
Foreign ministers had a preparatory discussion for the EU-League of Arab States (LAS) ministerial meeting to be held in Brussels on 4 February 2019, ahead of the first EU – LAS summit scheduled on 24 and 25 February 2019 in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt.
The Council reaffirmed the importance of a strong EU – LAS partnership. Foreign ministers discussed the need to cooperate with the LAS in addressing a wide range of issues and common challenges such as multilateralism, trade and investment, the fight against terrorism, migration, and climate change, as well as regional issues.
EU – ASEAN relations
The Council discussed the 22nd EU-ASEAN ministerial meeting, that took place on the same day in Brussels. The Council adopted conclusions on EU-ASEAN relations.