By Sibel Ugurlu
EU leaders on Friday urged "an urgent response" to the spread of deliberate, large-scale, and systematic disinformation, calling it "an acute and strategic challenge for our democratic systems."
The response to disinformation “needs to be sustained over time, in full respect of fundamental rights," the 28 EU leaders said in a statement of conclusions following their meeting in Brussels.
The EU Council stressed the need for a determined response and called for the prompt and coordinated implementation of the Joint Action Plan on disinformation.
The bloc also called for swift and decisive action at both the European and national levels on securing free and fair European and national elections.
The bloc's 28 heads of state also adopted conclusions on external relations, climate change, security and defense, and the fight against racism and xenophobia.
Racism, xenophobia and migration
The EU Council condemned "all forms of antisemitism, racism and xenophobia" and underlined the importance of combating intolerance.
The EU leaders welcomed adoption of the Dec. 6 Council Declaration on the fight against anti-Semitism.
Noting that the number of detected illegal border crossings was brought down to pre-immigrant crisis levels, the leaders stressed the continuing downward trend.
"This is the result of the external migration policy of the Union and its Member States, based, in particular, on control of the external borders, the fight against smugglers and cooperation with countries of origin and transit, which has been intensified in recent months," they said in the statement, vowing to continue developing the same policies.