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On 20 June, the European Council adopted conclusions, which mention, among other things, the issues of disinformation and hybrid threats, as well as situation in Ukraine.
Disinformation and hybrid threats
Further to the Presidency report and the contributions from the Commission and the High Representative on lessons learnt with regard to disinformation and securing free and fair elections, the European Council calls for sustained efforts to raise awareness, increase preparedness and strengthen the resilience of our democracies to disinformation. It welcomes the Commission’s intention to conduct an in-depth evaluation of the implementation of commitments undertaken by online platforms and other signatories under the Code of Practice. The evolving nature of the threats and the growing risk of malicious interference and online manipulation associated with the development of Artificial Intelligence and data-gathering techniques require continuous assessment and an appropriate response.
The EU must ensure a coordinated response to hybrid and cyber threats and strengthen its cooperation with relevant international actors. The European Council welcomes the adoption of a new framework for targeted restrictive measures, and the work on coordinated attribution at EU level in the context of the cyber diplomacy toolbox, to better deter and respond to cyber-attacks. It invites the EU institutions, together with the Member States, to work on measures to enhance the resilience and improve the security culture of the EU against cyber and hybrid threats from outside the EU, and to better protect the EU’s information and communication networks, and its decision-making processes, from malicious activities of all kinds.
Situation in Ukraine
The European Council reiterates its call on Russia to release the captured Ukrainian sailors unconditionally, return the seized vessels and ensure free passage of all ships through the Kerch Straits, in accordance with international law.
The European Council expresses its utmost concern about the Russian presidential decree of 24 April, enabling the simplified issuing of passports in certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which runs counter to the spirit and the objectives of the Minsk agreements.
The European Council will continue to monitor the situation in eastern Ukraine and stands ready to consider further options, including non-recognition of Russian passports issued in contradiction to the Minsk agreements, in close coordination with its international partners. The European Council calls for an urgent resumption of negotiating efforts with a view to the implementation of the Minsk agreements and for measures aimed at rebuilding confidence among the parties.
17 July will mark five years since the downing of flight MH17, which claimed 298 lives. The European Council reiterates its full support for all efforts to establish truth, justice and accountability for the victims and their next of kin, in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2166. In this context, it welcomes the announcement by the Joint Investigation Team on 19 June 2019 that criminal charges will be brought in the Netherlands against four individuals, calls on Russia to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation, and expresses its full confidence in the independence and professionalism of the legal procedures that lie ahead.
Russia: EU prolongs economic sanctions by six months
On 27 June 2019, the Council prolonged economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy until 31 January 2020.
This decision follows an update from Chancellor Merkel and President Macron to the European Council of 20-21 June 2019 on the state of implementation of the Minsk Agreements, to which the decision as to maintain the sanctions is linked.
Following this update, the European Council called for an urgent resumption of negotiating efforts with a view to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements and for measures aimed at rebuilding confidence among the parties. In this context, EU leaders unanimously agreed to maintain the economic sanctions on Russia. The Council formalised this decision today by written procedure.
The measures target the financial, energy and defence sectors, and the area of dual-use goods. They were originally introduced on 31 July 2014 for one year in response to Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine and strengthened in September 2014.
The economic sanctions prolonged by this decision include:
– limiting access to EU primary and secondary capital markets for 5 major Russian majority state-owned financial institutions and their majority-owned subsidiaries established outside of the EU, as well as three major Russian energy and three defence companies
– imposing an export and import ban on trade in arms
– establishing an export ban for dual-use goods for military use or military end users in Russia
– curtailing Russian access to certain sensitive technologies and services that can be used for oil production and exploration
In addition to these economic sanctions, several EU measures are also in place in response to the crisis in Ukraine including:
– targeted individual restrictive measures, namely a visa ban and an asset freeze currently against 170 individuals and 44 entities, in force until 15 September 2019;
– restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, limited to the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol, in force until 23 June 2020.
The duration of the economic sanctions was linked by the European Council on 19 March 2015 to the complete implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which was foreseen to take place by 31 December 2015. Since this did not happen, the sanctions have remained in place.
The Council prolonged EU economic sanctions against Russia until 31 January 2020.