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EU leaders discussed preparations for the upcoming summit with the League of Arab States on 24 and 25 February 2019 and welcomed the positive vote in the European Parliament on the EU-Japan trade deal and looked forward to its imminent entry into force.
Chancellor Merkel and President Macron briefed the leaders on the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Given that no progress has been made, the European Council took the political decision to roll-over the economic sanctions against Russia.
It expressed its utmost concern regarding the escalation in the Kerch Straits and the Azov Sea. To this end, the Council conclusions say:
"The European Council expresses its utmost concern regarding the escalation at the Kerch Straits and the Azov Sea and Russia's violations of international law. It reconfirms its commitment to international law, the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine and the EU's policy of non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea. There is no justification for the use of military force by Russia. The European Council requests the immediate release of all detained Ukrainian seamen as well as the return of the seized vessels and free passage of all ships through the Kerch Straits. The EU stands ready to adopt measures to strengthen further its support, in particular in favour of the affected areas of Ukraine".
The EU27 leaders held a special meeting of the European Council in Article 50 format to discuss Brexit. They reconfirmed the conclusions of 25 November 2018, in which they endorsed the withdrawal agreement and approved the political declaration.
Leaders also discussed their preparedness for a no-deal scenario.
Irregular arrivals have been brought down to pre-crisis levels thanks to external border controls, the fight against smugglers and enhanced cooperation with countries of origin and transit. Leaders called for the EU's external migration policy to be further developed and implemented.
Amid the spread of deliberate, large-scale, and systematic disinformation, including as part of hybrid warfare, presenting an acute and strategic challenge for European democratic systems, EU leaders stressed the need for an urgent response to disinformation in full respect of fundamental rights. They called for:
The Council is invited to continue work on this issue and to report back to the European Council in March 2019.
Fight against racism and xenophobia
EU leaders condemned all forms of antisemitism, racism and xenophobia, and underlined the importance of combating intolerance. They welcomed the adoption on 6 December 2018 of the Council Declaration on the fight against antisemitism.
European Council conclusions, 13-14 December (full text)