Italy is opposing a European Union push to slap sanctions on countries that carry out cyberattacks, a confidential EU document, seen by Reuters, states. The plan enjoys the support of an array of countries, including the UK, France, Estonia, the Netherlands and others, but with the exception of Italy, according to the document.
Bloomberg earlier reported that on the threshold of a new summit of European leaders, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom had sent a memo, which the edition managed to obtain, to EU member states, calling on them to come up with updates to their sanctions regime that would center on hacking attacks.
According to the US media outlet, a group of countries, with Estonia, Lithuania, Finland and Romania among them, is seeking to introduce a sanctions regime that would target individuals and entities responsible for cyberattacks. The group suggested coming up with cyber penalties, meant to be imposed for attacks on information systems, cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property and malicious cyber operations by state or non-state actors, "whose behavior was explicitly or tacitly condoned by a foreign government."
The push closely followed accusations brought against Russian and Chinese individuals, who allegedly attempted to carry out cyberattacks on a number of international institutions based in Europe and the United States. More specifically, last week, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld claimed that four Russians from the GRU had been expelled from the Netherlands for purportedly attempting to hack into the OPCW's computer system.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has in turn dismissed the accusations as "Western spy mania," and handed a note of protest to the Dutch ambassador, stressing that the incident was a "provocation in connection with Russia's position in the OPCW." The ministry underscored that the country's partaking in anti-Russian campaigns "inflicts irreparable damage upon bilateral relations."
Italy, meanwhile, noted earlier this year that sanctions currently in place against Russia are ruinous for Italian firms trading with Moscow, and called for easing tensions with Moscow.