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3rd Europe-Australia 1.5 track Cybersecurity Dialogue - Part 1

by Katja Theodorakis

'Covid-19 & the road to global cyber norms: The case of banning cyber operations against public health infrastructures'

The annual KAS Australia-Europe 1.5 track Cybersecurity Dialogue, this year already in its third iteration, aims to bring together senior government representatives, policy makers, academic experts, practitioners and members of the diplomatic corps to share their views, develop better understandings and explore how cooperation could be strengthened. Usually, this is achieved through a combination of roundtables, an in-depth seminar and meetings at various relevant institutions and ministries, as well as the respective federal, state and EU Parliaments – alternating between Canberra/Sydney and Berlin/Brussels as locations.

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This year’s dialogue took place in a slightly altered, virtual format – the overarching theme of ‘Cybersecurity in Crisis Times- A Way Forward for Europe and Australia’ was addressed through three separate interactive discussion sessions with speakers from Europe and Australia.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted not only the interconnectedness of the world but also the associated vulnerabilities. Even before, it has been argued that greater cooperation and multilateral engagement are necessary on a broader geopolitical level. This has been especially important for Europe, whose identity is founded in a vision of cooperation and openness, as highlighted by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.


Multilateralism is seen as the only way forward:

“Effective collective action can meet the risks of disease, climate change, cyber-attacks, nuclear proliferation, and terrorism. No single country on its own can make itself secure; unilateralism is not a serious policy path. This is what global governance (not government) is all about. The form of the arrangements can and should be tailored to the threat and to those willing and able to cooperate, but there is no viable alternative to multilateralism.”

Deglobalization and Its Discontents by Richard N. Haass


This requires us to look at how we manage global interdependence, particularly in the area of cyberspace, as a politically contested space shaped by hyper-connectivity and lack of overarching global governance. The topic for the entire dialogue/discussion series hence centred around multilateral and multi-stakeholder engagement and the potential for increasing cooperation as the COVID-19 pandemic has widened the attack surface for cyber operations. While this first discussion in the series focused on global cyber norms, subsequent sessions were respectively dedicated to joint responses to large-scale cyber incidents and the EU’s toolkit  as well as a discussion on emerging technologies and issues of Digital Autonomy for Australia and Europe


We were supported in the conceptualisation and organization by three experts from the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung – a Berlin think tank at the intersection of technology and society: Julia Schuetze, Alexandra Paulus and Kate Saslow who chaired these sessions

This event was held under Chatham House Rule (not open to the public). Experts were invited to these discussions as part of a selected group to allow for the opportunity to actively engage and share insights.


Session One:


The opening discussion was on ‘Covid-19 and the road to global cyber norms: The case of banning cyber operations against public health infrastructures’.

Following multiple cyber operations targeting public health infrastructures, various groups of states and non-state actors condemned such attacks and even advanced concrete proposals for establishing a norm banning cyber operations against public health infrastructures. This case study raises interesting questions and implications regarding the process of establishing global cyber norms at the United Nations and beyond.  For example, what steps would be necessary to make such a norm sufficiently robust? How is this relevant for European-Australian cooperation in this matter?


Input speakers from the European and Australian were:

Ms Johanna Weaver, Head of the Australian delegation to the UN Open-ended Working Group on cyber norms, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,

Mr Wolfram von Heynitz, Head of the Cyber Policy Coordination Staff, German Federal Foreign Office

Mr Lukasz Olejnik, independent adviser and researcher

Mr Bart Hogeveen, Head of Cyber Capacity building, International Cyber Policy Centre, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

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Katja Theodorakis


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