Friday

9th Dec 2022

Opinion

Cyber space needs stronger rule of law

  • 'It would be wise to designate specific elements of the cyber domain to be off limits for cyber-attacks' (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

On 16 and 17 April, the global cyber community will gather in The Hague for the Global Conference on Cyberspace.

The Internet brings people together, generates ideas and helps shape our future. We are convinced that we should protect the Internet and its innovative power, but should also deal with the challenges that cyber confronts us with.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Cyberspace has become the most important strategic asset of modern societies

We can only reap the full benefits of the Internet if we are able to make it a safe place to do business and to protect human rights, including privacy and freedom of expression online, as they are protected off line.

The world community has a lot to gain from a free, open and secure Internet.

We are calling on governments, the business community, civil society, the academic and technical communities, who are present in The Hague, to work together to promote this vision and find a good balance among rights that have all to be protected.

New realities

The development of the Internet has created new realities for all of us.

Governments have come to the table rather late in recognizing the importance of the Internet to their traditional roles and responsibilities, but now see the challenges before them more clearly. It is only by working closely with all Internet stakeholders that we can effectively safeguard the cyberspace for future generations.

The cyber hijacking of TV5 Monde, the attack last year against Sony Pictures, and constant cyber-attacks on financial services worldwide show that cyber operations have become a tool for power manipulation and political coercion for states and non-state actors alike.

These incidents illustrate that we need to clarify how existing international law and the norms of responsible behaviour contribute to trust and confidence in cyberspace.

Is cyberspace then a lawless area? Not quite.

Agreement was reached by a global group of cyber experts under the UN auspices that international law, and notably the UN Charter, applies to cyberspace.

The Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe has adopted a first set of confidence building measures in cyber security. Global efforts continue to further develop cyber confidence building activities.

The Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) this week offers a broad multi-stakeholder platform to discuss new ideas in this field. We must strive to ensure that our fundamental values that our open societies rest upon are also upheld in the digital sphere.

Cyber security

In order to address cyber challenges, states should take action against threats emanating from territory under their control. It would be wise to designate specific elements of the cyber domain to be off limits for cyber-attacks, in the same way that hospitals cannot be attacked in times of war.

Examples could be critical infrastructure providing essential civilian services, civilian incident response structures and certain critical components of the global Internet.

States should also refrain from undermining the fundamental security of the vital cyber infrastructures.

Governments can’t act alone. They will have to rely on other partners. We should therefore find ways to broaden the discussion on international rules and norms in cyber space to capture a broader range of interests, including the public and private sector.

The Global Commission on Internet Governance, a broadly composed group that studies the similarly complex issue of Internet Governance, could offer a good model.

If we acknowledge the fact that cyberspace has become the most important strategic asset of modern societies, then we must look beyond narrow short term interests in order to create more lasting stability.

We need to re-invent ourselves and bring all who are affected to the table.

Bert Koenders is the Dutch foreign minister. Federica Mogherini is the head of the EU foreign service

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU cyber directive 'nearly finished'

The EU executive will release a draft directive on cyber security in 2013, in the latest indication that the bloc is moving towards a harmonised online rulebook.

A plea to the EU from inside Tehran's Evin jail

As a result of my peaceful civil activism, I have been arrested 13 times, undergone five trials, and been sentenced to 34 years of imprisonment and 154 lashes in total. I am currently in Evrin prison, without the slightest regret.

No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU

The European Commission has asked the member states' leaders assembling in Brussels next week for the customary end-of-year European Council to approve EU candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doing so would be a mistake.

The military-industrial complex cashing-in on the Ukraine war

From the outset, arms manufacturers eyed this war as a profitable business opportunity. Structural changes took place across the EU, not only to fast-track arms to Ukraine, but also to make more public finance available to the highly-lucrative arms industry.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. A plea to the EU from inside Tehran's Evin jail
  2. EU lets Croatia into Schengen, keeps Bulgaria and Romania out
  3. Energy crisis costs thousands of EU jobs, but industrial output stable
  4. Illegal pushbacks happening daily in Croatia, says NGO
  5. No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU
  6. EU takes legal action against China over Lithuania
  7. EU Commission shoring up children's rights of same-sex parents
  8. The military-industrial complex cashing-in on the Ukraine war

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us