My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 21 January. It was chaired by the High Representative and Vice President of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting was held in Brussels.
Ministers briefly discussed the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Venezuela and Syria and noted the recent bomb attack in Bogotá and developments on Yemen.
The Council discussed the action plan against disinformation that was presented by the High Representative and European Commission on 5 December 2018. Ministers expressed their strong support for the plan and exchanged views on its implementation, underlining the need to respond to external security challenges while also respecting national approaches and protecting freedom of expression and of the media.
The Council highlighted the creation of an EU “rapid alert system” to share expertise and best practices, and to promote co-ordinated action, notably through awareness raising campaigns. Ministers stressed the need to engage with civil society, business and academia to tackle disinformation, as well as to work with international partners, such as NATO and the G7 on this issue.
The Council agreed that the EU’s operational capacities should be strengthened, including by reinforcing the three European External Action Service strategic communication taskforces.
EU-League of Arab States (LAS) relations
The EU-LAS ministerial is scheduled to take place in Brussels on 4 February and the first EU-LAS summit on 24 and 25 February in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. Ahead of these meetings the Council reaffirmed the importance of a strong EU-LAS partnership and the need to co-operate 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-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) relations
The Council held a short discussion ahead of the 22nd EU-ASEAN ministerial meeting that also took place on 21 January.
The Council agreed a number of measures without discussion:
The Council adopted conclusions on Nicaragua;
The Council imposed sanctions against the use and proliferation of chemical weapons;
The Council added 11 businessmen and five entities to the list of those subject to restrictive measures against the Syrian regime and its supporters;
The Council adopted a decision in support of the biological and toxin weapons convention (BTWC) in the framework of the EU strategy against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
The Council removed two deceased persons from the list of those subject to restrictive measures against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK);
The Council removed one deceased person from the list of those subject to restrictive measures in respect of actions underlining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine;
The Council adopted its position on behalf of the EU within the European economic area joint committee on an amendment to annex IX (on financial services) to the EEA agreement;
The Council forwarded a Council decision to the European Parliament on the conclusion of an arrangement between the EU and the Schengen associated states on their participation in eu-LISA;
The Council adopted two decisions on the positions to be taken on behalf of the EU within the joint Council under the economic partnership agreement (EPA) between the EU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC);
The Council approved an information note about a recommended EU position for a reply to an ICAO state letter on the establishment of a technical advisory body and developments on the emissions unit criteria.