Brussels (Brussels Morning) Essential services such as energy, transport and drinking water need to be better protected in order to avoid mass disruptions of critical services and to improve resilience at EU level, MEPs on the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) have decided by 57 votes in favour to 6 against.
“Critical entities provide essential services across the EU, while facing a growing number of both man-made and natural threats. Our ambition is to strengthen their ability to cope with risks to their operations while improving the functioning of the internal market in essential services”, MEP Michal Šimečka (Renew Europe) explained.
Currently, European Critical Infrastructure (ECI) legislation covers only two sectors — transport and energy.
The proposed legislative changes will enable the EU to expand it so that it covers ten sectors in all — energy, transport, banking, financial market infrastructures, health, drinking water, waste water, digital infrastructure, public administration and space.
At the same time, the new rules will introduce an all-hazard risk approach, whereas hitherto, the ECI was largely focused on terrorism.
Climate change and cybersecurity
MEPs on the LIBE Committee voted to upgrade risk assessments and national strategies. For example., thyy cited climate change as a potential source of disruption of essential infrastructure, and acknowledged cybersecurity as an important aspect of resilience.
As services become increasingly interdependent, the revised legislation requires local authorities to set up a single point of contact responsible for communicating with other jurisdictions.
It also creates a new Critical Entities Resilience Group to facilitate communication between all the participants, with the Parliament participating as an observer.
MEPs want to see greater transparency when disruptions occur, which will require critical entities to inform the general public about incidents or serious risks.
They also want to make sure that EU countries can provide financial support to critical entities, where and when this is in the public interest, without prejudice to state aid rules.
The LIBE Committee proposes to widen the definition of essential services, so that protecting the environment, public health and safety, and the rule of law also feature.
To ensure frictionless cross-border co-operation, MEPs also determined that service providers should be considered “of European significance” if they offer similar services in at least three member states.
Before negotiations with the Council can get underway, the LIBE Committee’s draft recommendations must first be endorsed by the full Parliament in a future session.