To boost the European Union’s electronic defences, a group of eight EU member states is calling on Brussels to target cyber attackers with sanctions. The group warned that a lack of tough actions makes hackers believe they will go unpunished.

According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the move comes amid growing concerns over Russia’s alleged malign cyber activities, with Western powers blaming Moscow for numerous acts of hacking and electronic interference.

Backed by Britain, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Denmark, Finland, Romania and the Netherlands, the confidential EU proposal seen by AFP, warns that “the pace of events has accelerated considerably”.

“This context makes the introduction of such a regime a pressing priority,” the text says, urging EU leaders to formally back the proposal at their summit in Brussels this week.

The paper warns it is “only a matter of time before we are hit by a critical operation with severe consequences on the EU”.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP that evidence from Nato and other cyber experts showed the problem was “becoming more and more intense”.

“It’s just a question of time whether it will be attacks on very vulnerable even strategic segments, so we should develop our own armoury to withstand,” Linkevicius said.