BRUSSELS -- European Union leaders are calling for a new sanctions regime that would slap penalties on those found responsible for cyberattacks on the bloc’s member states.
The move on October 18 comes after Britain and the Netherlands revealed weeks earlier that suspected Russian military-intelligence agents had in April attempted to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) based in The Hague.
A statement posted on the European Council website says that the council "calls for measures to combat cyber- and cyber-enabled illegal and malicious activities and build strong cybersecurity.”
It adds that “work on the capacity to respond to and deter cyberattacks through EU restrictive measures should be taken forward.”
The initiative was proposed by Britain, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Denmark, Finland, and Romania.
The sanctions regime will not immediately take effect. Over the next weeks and months, EU member states will work to finalize the legal framework to establish the framework.
In statements scheduled to be presented later on October 18 at the EU summit, British Prime Minister Theresa May will call on fellow EU leaders to take a united stand to punish cyberattackers, warning of the dangers to the economy and democracy that can be caused by hackers.
"We should accelerate work on EU restrictive measures to respond to and deter cyberattacks, including a robust sanctions regime," May will say, according to the text.
The proposal calls for a freeze of assets of individuals responsible for cyberattacks and a ban on them entering the EU.
Although not specifically mentioning Russia, the call for sanctions comes amid continued concerns about Moscow’s cyber activities, which Western powers have said include hacking and electronic meddling in the election processes of several foreign nations.