Brussels (Brussels Morning) EU countries should step up efforts to counter cyber-attacks and address network vulnerabilities, in moving to bolster European security. The warning comes in a report adopted by the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) on Thursday evening, with 58 votes in favour, 7 against and 3 abstentions.
MEPs broadly acknowledged that cyberattacks with serious societal repercussion can take place at any time, while they encouraged the EU and member states to to take all “necessary measures” to protect against such eventualities.
Their vote lends weight to the European Commission’s proposal for a “Joint Cyber Unit” that was announced on 23 June, and which is intended to equip and prepare the EU for handling large-scale security incidents.
“In recent years, we’ve clearly seen a growth in cyber operations conducted by state and non-state actors. In order to tackle these threats we need closer cooperation on cyber defence between member states, the EU institutions, NATO, the US and other strategic partners”, MEP Urmas Paet (Renew Europe) declared.
According to the AFET Committee report, such cyber operations are conducted by state and non-state actors and they are growing in diversity, sophistication and frequency.
It should be a “matter of priority” to reinforce and enhance defence capacities and cyber-European capabilities. Cyber defence, according to the report, constitutes “actions, instruments and processes” that are proportionate and in line with international law, and include military and civilian elements.
From planning to action
MEPs were agreed that the control of technologies, equipment, services, data and data processing is key to the EU’s ability to develop and deliver cyber defence projects.
Cooperation with the private sector should be reinforced, AFET members noted, given its expertise in technological innovation. This collaboration should include civilian stakeholders, industries, SMEs and civil society.
At EU level, the Parliament called on member states to take advantage of the European Defence Fund (EDF) to jointly develop cyber defence capabilities. According to the Commission, 4-to-8% of the EDF’s budget over the next seven years is to be devoted to disruptive technologies, capable of delivering “game-change innovations”.
“The time of innocence is over — we know that we are a target”, Commission VP Margaritis Schinas said during a press conference. “We need to modernize, reinforce, and adapt”, he added.
Training common needs
In an attempt to increase cooperation and situational awareness, EU countries and the EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) launched the Cyber Crisis Liaison Organisation Network (CyCLONe) in September 2020.
CyCLONe is designed to help ensure a coordinated response in case of a disruptive cyber incident within the EU.
The joint project addresses the need for strengthened cooperation during major cyber-related crises. These measures include common situation awareness, coordinated responses and public information.