On 8 January 2019, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, took part in the meeting of the European Union (EU) General Affairs Council in Brussels.
At the meeting, Member States highlighted the challenges posed by disinformation and the need for the EU to step up the fight against it. The Parliamentary Secretary pointed in particular to the need for implementing, in a coordinated manner, of the EU Action Plan against Disinformation in the EU and its Member States presented on 5 December 2018, especially in view of the European Parliament elections this coming May. Latvia has brought considerable contribution to the drafting of the said plan.
Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica underlined that “the internal and external dimensions of disinformation are inseparable. Capacity should be strengthened to counter the external disinformation threat, while at the same time building resilience in our societies. The EU should also promote the involvement of the private sector, including IT companies and social platforms, in the fight against disinformation”.
Latvia was one of the first among EU Member States to draw attention to challenges such as the capacity to detect, analyse and expose disinformation, as well as raising public awareness, including through support for research, media independence and media literacy. It is important for Latvia that the capacity of the East Strategic Communication Task Force of the European External Action Service is also increased to tackle challenges in the Eastern Partnership region.
At the General Affairs Council, Member States also held a discussion about the work on the EU’s multiannual financial framework for 2021–2027 under the leadership of the Romanian Presidency during the next six month. Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica noted: “A timely agreement on the EU budget is essential to ensure that funds are made available on time. This is of vital importance to final beneficiaries – citizens and companies. At the same time, Latvia underlines the significance of a high quality agreement. The original EU proposal should be considerably adjusted. Convergence should be a maintained as a horizontal priority in relation to agriculture, the Cohesion Policy, transport connections, research and innovations.”
The Member State representatives were also given a presentation on the priorities of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first half of 2019. At the meeting, the Parliamentary Secretary Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica said that Latvia fully subscribed to the motto “Cohesion, a common European value” chosen by the Romanian Presidency, and she pointed out that Latvia had always underlined the importance of convergence and cohesion in every aspect of EU policy.
The meetings of the General Affairs Council are held on a monthly basis, and in the first half of 2019 they are chaired by the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
At the European Council in December 2018, the political leaders agreed that an agreement on the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework should be achieved by the autumn of 2019. Therefore, the most intensive stage of negotiations could take place during the term of the Romanian Presidency.
The EU Action Plan against Disinformation in the EU and its Member States presented on 5 December 2018 was preceded by a progress report on the implementation of the European Commission Communication “Tackling Online Disinformation: a European Approach” published on 26 April 2018. The Action Plan was a response to discussions at the European Council in June, October and December 2018, where it was pointed to challenges in the area, especially ahead of the upcoming European elections in May 2019.
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