EU Foreign Minister on hacker attack: “Exactly what we warned about”

Status: 01/14/2022 1:15 p.m

The hacker attack on Ukraine throws the EU foreign ministers’ meeting into disarray: they are once again dealing with the threat posed by Russia. Meanwhile, the list of other conflict issues is getting longer.

By Michael Schneider, ARD Studio Brussels

The Russia chapter was supposed to have been closed at the ministerial meeting in Brest, but nothing came of it: In the morning it became known that a large-scale hacker attack had paralyzed the websites of the Ukrainian authorities. This is exactly how, NATO insiders had warned shortly before, that a Russian attack on the neighboring country could begin. And that’s why the alarm bells were also ringing among the EU foreign ministers.

Michael Schneider
ARD studio Brussels

“That’s exactly what we warned about. What we’re also afraid of. These hybrid and cyber attacks,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde on the fringes of the consultations with her counterparts. The EU foreign ministers must now clarify whether the EU can support Kiev – for example with technical assistance for cyber defense.

In addition, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called an emergency meeting of the Political and Security Committee. The big question now is whether Moscow is really behind the virtual attack. “It’s not easy to answer,” he said. “I don’t have any evidence. So I can’t say who is responsible. But you can imagine.”

Hardly any dialogue progress so far

And so Russia was also the dominant topic on the second day of the Foreign Ministers’ Conference in Brest. It is also about the assessment of a whole series of intergovernmental talks this week. Representatives from the Kremlin, the White House, NATO and the OSCE tried to enter into a joint dialogue.

From the Russian side, however, these talks were seen as a disappointment. Above all, Russia demands numerous security guarantees from NATO, which the military alliance rejects. So did the conversation collapse before it really started? Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg does not see things quite so bleakly in the balance sheet.

Tightrope walk in China policy

In addition to Russia, the EU foreign ministers are also dealing with other regions of the world – for example with Mali, where the EU states are involved in training missions to rebuild the state. However, after the planned new elections were canceled there, the commitment is under scrutiny.

The really big topic of the day should be the relationship between the EU and China. The debate about future relations is overshadowed by a dispute: Beijing is currently imposing trade sanctions on EU member Lithuania since the country has been seeking closer ties with Taiwan. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock calls for a joint EU response.

And that describes the dilemma in which Europe finds itself in relation to the People’s Republic: without close trade relations with China, the European economy will not run smoothly. However, it is important not to betray your own values. A tightrope walk that Baerbock and her counterparts have to walk for better or worse.

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