The European Union can levy economic sanctions on anyone caught attacking EU states’ computer networks, EU foreign ministers said on Monday, the bloc’s latest step to deter more attacks following incidents in Britain and France.
With German national elections in September, interference in democratic votes is a concern for the bloc after accusations of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election last November and the French election in May.
EU foreign ministers agreed that so-called restrictive measures including travel bans, assets freezes and blanket bans on doing business with a person, company or government could be used for the first time.
“A joint EU response to malicious cyber activities would be proportionate to the scope, scale, duration, intensity, complexity, sophistication and impact of the cyber activity,” the bloc said in a statement.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia hacked and leaked Democratic Party emails as part of an effort to tilt the presidential election in favor of President Donald Trump, which Russia denies.
A British intelligence agency has told political parties to protect themselves against potential cyber attacks, while the French government dropped plans to let its citizens abroad vote electronically in Sunday’s legislative elections because of the risk of cyber attacks.