Sign up for PM Award Updates!

EU team to counter Russian ‘disinformation’: draft

March 17, 2015

EU leaders will agree at a summit this week to set up a special media unit to counter what the bloc sees as a skillful Russian propaganda campaign during the Ukraine crisis, according to draft conclusions.

The idea has been circulating for some time as the 28-nation European Union sees itself having been repeatedly wrong-footed in the bitterly fought information war over Ukraine, sources said.

“The European Council stressed the need to challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns and invited (EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini), in cooperation with member states and EU institutions, to prepare by June an action plan on strategic communication in support of media freedom,” said the draft summit conclusions seen by AFP.

“The establishment of a communication team is a first step in this regard.”

The feeling in Brussels is that Russia has so far had the better of the EU and that something must be done to redress the balance, especially in the eastern European countries once ruled from Moscow.

“The aim is to set up a team in Brussels to monitor Russian media, identify obvious lies and what the truth is, and transfer it to member states,” a European source said.

The first anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 has painfully highlighted the issue for the EU, with Moscow orchestrating a series of events to mark what it says is the rightful return to the motherland of a key Russian-speaking territory.

The European summit on Thursday and Friday is however not expected to produce any agreements on whether to extend economic sanctions imposed on Russia in July 2014 over the Ukraine crisis or on any new sanctions.

The section on sanctions remains blank in the draft conclusions.

The leaders will call for the full implementation of the Minsk peace agreements that have led to a shaky ceasefire in Ukraine and underline the “Russian authorities’ responsibility in this regard”, the draft says.

Western powers including the EU accuse Russia of backing pro-Kremlin rebels in eastern Ukraine, a charge Russia routinely dismisses.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.