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Good morning. Finland is in Nato, the European People’s party is in trouble with the police, and a fugitive businessman who escaped house arrest in Italy is in: (surprise, surprise) Russia.
Today, our technology correspondent reveals the fight between Brussels and EU member states that’s undermining a new plan to thwart cyber attacks against Europe, and our Paris bureau chief profiles the young female union leader standing up to Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform.
What happens when Europe gets hit with a massive cross-border cyber attack and takes down crucial infrastructure, such as high-speed satellite broadband?
At the moment: nobody knows. EU member states and the European Commission are still arguing over who presses the crisis button and how to deploy resources in case of an attack, writes Javier Espinoza.
Context: The threat of a massive co-ordinated attack on EU infrastructure led by Russian hackers has increased since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, according to concerned EU officials, prompting Brussels to draw up plans for how to respond.
These are not academic concerns. Officials point to recent examples that highlight Europe’s vulnerability, including the cyber attack against the US communications company Viasat, which knocked out thousands of wind turbines in Germany and crucial emergency services in France.
EU officials are currently working on the Cyber Solidarity Act, a piece of legislation that wants to promote collective efforts by member states to counter an attack.
The idea is that if Europe is the victim of an orchestrated cyber attack affecting multiple countries at once, member states would have a reserve of certified providers to help tackle a crisis, according to people familiar with the proposal set to be published on April 18.
While countries recognise the threat, there are signals the proposal will prompt a fierce battle between Brussels and national capitals over who manages the response.
A document sent to officials drafting the act, signed by 24 countries including France and Germany and seen by the FT, warned Brussels to slow down. It said: “We consider it necessary for this initiative to be handled carefully and effectively, and in conjunction with existing initiatives, structures and mechanisms.”
One of their main concerns? Losing control and power to the EU mother ship. These countries say they want to keep the power to monitor and assess their local cyber threats and their abilities to respond to them.
“The decision regarding national requirements for private companies to be involved . . . as well as the conditions and decisions regarding their deployment, should . . . remain under member states’ exclusive control,” the document adds.
Chart du jour: Bricks and mortar
Average house prices in the EU suffered their first quarterly fall since 2015 at the end of last year, declining in 15 of the bloc’s 27 countries as rising borrowing costs brought an end to an almost decade-long boom.
There will be a new face at the table today when French prime minister Élisabeth Borne meets with union leaders to try to convince them to end months of protests against the government’s unpopular plan to raise the retirement age, writes Leila Abboud.
She is Sophie Binet, a 41-year-old labour activist who unexpectedly won a hotly contested internal election to become the new boss of the hardline General Confederation of Labour (CGT) union.
That France’s oldest union, which was historically linked to the Communist party, has picked Binet to be its first-ever female leader is a sign of how it is seeking renewal to reverse years of declining membership and infighting.
She is from a different generation and has a more consensual style than her predecessor, Philippe Martinez, the 61-year-old colourful union boss famous both for his gruffness and his epic moustache.
Binet managed to beat out Martinez’s handpicked successor and another candidate who hailed from the hardest line internally — both of whom were also women.
Her background as the head of the CGT branch that represents engineers, managers and white-collar workers is also a change. The bastions of the union have long been in industrial companies, carmakers, and energy.
But if Borne was hoping the change in CGT leadership might help her make a breakthrough with unions in their first meeting since protests began in January, Binet quickly dashed those hopes.
Asked what she expected from the meeting, she told France Inter radio: “The withdrawal of the pensions reform. It’s simple.”
When the journalist pointed out that Borne was not going to do that, Binet deadpanned: “It could be a very short meeting.”
Classic CGT — with a new face.
What to watch today
French president Emmanuel Macron and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen travel to China, ahead of meetings tomorrow.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Poland, holds talks with president Andrzej Duda.
Final day of Nato foreign ministers’ meeting, arrivals from 7am.
Now read these
Evan Gershkovich: Russia’s arrest of the US journalist on bogus spying charges is a cowardly act aimed at stifling the media, writes the FT. He must be released.
Greek tragedy: Debt, graft and mismanagement — Eleni Varvitsioti on why Greece’s recent train crash was “waiting to happen”.
Energy dilemma: Russia’s war in Ukraine has made Norwegian gas critical to Europe. But that is holding back its green energy push, writes Richard Milne.
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