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Council calls for strengthening resilience and countering hybrid threats, including disinformation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

The Council yesterday adopted conclusions which call for further enhanced responses at EU level to counter hybrid threats, including disinformation, and strengthening resilience. The Council notes that new technologies and crises, such as the ongoing pandemic, offer opportunities for hostile actors to expand their interference activities. These pose an additional challenge for the member states and the EU institutions, besides the crisis itself.

The Council acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic makes the EU and its member states more vulnerable to hybrid threats. Such threats include the increased spread of disinformation and manipulative interference. Addressing such threats, in particular malicious cyber activities, disinformation and threats to economic security, requires a comprehensive approach involving effective cooperation and coordination.

Markus Kerber, State Secretary, Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community yesterday said:

The COVID-19 pandemic made clear that intensified efforts are needed to protect the European Union, its Member States and their societies and the EU institutions from hybrid threats and their harmful effects. We must protect our democratic societies and institutions from such threats, notably by enhancing our resilience and further strengthening our tools at EU and Member State level.

In this context, the Council acknowledges that the EU approach to addressing disinformation is multidisciplinary and involves multiple stakeholders. The Council invites the Commission and the High Representative to further enhance responses at EU level, taking into account the economic and societal damage, as well as the possible damage to public health, caused by disinformation and the malign use of newly emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence.

The Council also urges to continue efforts to strengthen the EEAS StratCom Task Forces and to develop the Rapid Alert System with a view to developing a comprehensive platform for member states and EU institutions.

It invites the Commission to develop and eventually implement additional transparency requirements for online platforms. The aim of such requirements would be to promote a well-functioning digital public sphere, develop greater accountability and enhance transparency in addressing disinformation.

The Council notes that diplomatic engagement and measures are an effective European tool. This is in addition to enhancing resilience, which remains one of the most important tasks and is at the heart of European efforts to counter hybrid threats.

Lastly, the Council invites the Commission and the High Representative to play an active role in addressing pan-European vulnerabilities, including in ensuring the security and resilience of supply chains as part of economic security, and to propose initiatives designed to strengthen resilience and improve responses as appropriate with due consideration of emerging technologies.

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