Our world is becoming increasingly interconnected. Countries, cities, businesses and citizens develop growing chains of interdependence. From the lights on our streets to our sources of information, cyberspace is an intrinsic part of our lives, just like electricity. However, increased connectivity may also represent greater vulnerability.
It is safe to say that the challenges we are facing in cyberspace mirror the current geopolitical context.
A national-based approach raises questions about the proliferation and divergence of rules and risks these developments present to citizens. On top of it, non-state actors have also increased their capacities by presenting challenges in cyberspace.
A much needed multilateral approach is therefore at risk. At this time it is important to apply existing international laws and follow agreed norms of responsible state behaviour. Only by doing so we are able to ensure the respect for common values: protect democracy and respect for human rights.
The EU Cyber Forum contributes to the debate on the EU’s approach to cyber issues. Upon opening the event, High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell stated: “We want everyone to reap the benefits that the Internet and the use of technologies provide. At the same time we need effective answers to fast-changing cyber threats. Achieving both objectives will be at the heart of our new EU Cybersecurity Strategy that is foreseen this autumn.”
The EU remains faithful to its principles and to the understanding that a cooperative multilateral approach is essential, as challenges in the cyberspace can have implications on everyone. Respect for international law and the work in the United Nations on norms of responsible state behaviour is key to maintaining international security and stability in cyberspace.
In practice, the EU’s actions can be summarised into three pillars:
Firstly, developing and meaningfully implementing confidence-building measures.
Secondly, bringing forward our willingness to settle international disputes by peaceful means; finally on responding to incidents, including when appropriate through the framework for a joint EU diplomatic response to malicious cyber activities established back in 2017.
And lastly, maintaining the perspective of a multilateral approach, the EU has been deepening the regular dialogue with partners and regional organisations.
The era of cyber diplomacy has started to mature.
The EU and its Member States will continue to strengthen cyber security and resilience, build capacities of its international partners and promote increased transparency on cybersecurity issues, as means to address the challenges associated with the digitalisation of economies and societies, as well as to reduce the ability of potential perpetrators to misuse ICTs for malicious purposes.
In 2017, the EU has presented a sophisticated and comprehensive Cyber Diplomacy Toolbox to prevent, deter and respond to malicious behaviour. It empowers the EU to act upon what it defends.
A legal framework for sanctions against cyber-attacks is part of this toolbox. High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell stated that: “These targeted measures will ensure that those individuals and entities are held accountable for their actions. They send a message to the world that we have the tools to protect ourselves, and the resolve to use them.”
As a concrete result, earlier this year, the first sanctions have been applied against six individuals and three entities involved in significant cyber-attacks against the EU and its Member States.
In the present days, digital connectivity can be the element needed to bring people closer, education to many homes, to boost business development, optimise the development of tasks, whilst addressing other challenges at the same time – such as the climate crisis. Therefore, EU’s action inside and outside of the EU aims to protect the benefits of the use of Internet and digital means, to ensure a free, open, stable and secure cyberspace.
EU Cyber Forum is organised by the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), in cooperation with the European External Action Service, the European Commission, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and the European Cybercrime Centre at Europol.
Revisit the 2019 edition in the video below.