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The European Council in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

The European Council announced last week a new framework to punish perpetrators of cyber crimes, in response to a growing number of politically motivated attacks against EU member states and institutions, non–EU countries and international organizations.

Why it matters: The EU has condemned malicious behavior in cyberspace before, but this is the first time it has instituted a policy to respond to malign behavior, an important milestone given the threats posed by hackers from Russia, China and elsewhere.

Background: Recent cyberattacks linked to Russian state actors have targeted the campaign emails of French President Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s parliament and government agencies, the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (which was investigating the attack on Sergei Skripal), and Estonia’s government, businesses and media outlets.

Between the lines: The policy would impose visa bans and asset freezes on state and non-state actors who use cyber tools to cripple information networks. It would likely allow the EU to match U.S. sanctions on cyberattack perpetrators in cases of shared foreign policy and security interests.

Yes, but: While the new framework is robust, some EU member states, notably France, have often been reluctant to publicly attribute cyberattacks to a specific actor, preferring instead to communicate with alleged offenders through diplomatic channels. In their view, perpetrators often cover their trails, making it difficult to gather evidence tying an attack to a particular attacker.

  • For the new framework to prove effective, EU policymakers will need to act decisively to publicly expose offending actors.

The bottom line: This more muscular stance by Brussels sends a stronger deterrence signal to authoritarian regimes targeting democratic institutions.

David Salvo is deputy director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund.

Go deeper

22 mins ago - World

Biden's ambassador nominee: "China is not an Olympian power"

Nick Burns testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to China delivered a stark assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces in confronting Beijing, but stressed that the rising superpower is "not all-powerful" and the West retains "substantial" advantages.

The big picture: Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, used his confirmation hearing Wednesday to echo the growing bipartisan consensus that China poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to form team to solve consulate dispute

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meet in Washington. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel are planning to form a joint team to hold discreet negotiations on the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: The consulate handled relations with the Palestinians for 25 years before being shut down by then President Donald Trump in 2019. Senior officials in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government see the consulate issue as a political hot potato that could destabilize their unwieldy coalition.

Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to Parkland school shooting

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz at the defense table during jury selection at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 6, 2021. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday pleaded guilty on all counts for carrying out the 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, including 14 students and three staff members.

Driving the news: Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty at a hearing on Wednesday to 17 murder counts and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for carrying out the deadly shooting.