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EU Leaders Endorse New Sanctions Regime Targeting Chemical Weapons

EU leaders take part in a European Union summit in Brussels on June 28.

BRUSSELS – European Union leaders are calling for a new sanctions regime targeting the use of chemical weapons and an action plan to respond to disinformation campaigns.

During a two-day summit meeting early on July 29, the leaders endorsed a statement calling for "adoption as soon as possible of a new EU regime of restrictive measures to address the use and proliferation of chemical weapons.”

The move comes three months after a chemical-weapons attack that sickened former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, England. That incident resulted in a majority of EU member states expelling Russian diplomats.

Russia denied any responsibility for the incident and expelled an equal number of EU diplomats in a tit-for-tat response.

On disinformation, EU leaders tasked their foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to produce an action plan by December for a coordinated EU response to address the growing "challenge" of official disinformation campaigns.

That plan also targets Russia and its disinformation efforts in the Western Balkans and elsewhere in Europe.

The leaders directed Mogherini and the European Commission to present “an action plan by December 2018 with specific proposals for a coordinated EU response to the challenge of disinformation," including establishing and funding "strategic communications teams" to counter the disinformation.

A decision to establish what is called the East Stratcom Task Force to address Russian disinformation campaigns was already made in 2015 and has since then been followed by a team dealing with the so-called "southern neighborhood" and the Western Balkans.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament granted the first direct EU budget line to all the stratcom teams, with 1.1 million euros ($1.3 million) expected to reach the units by the fall, according to EU sources familiar with the matter who could not speak on the record.