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Germany tells EU to slow down on new cyber rules

  • The directive on security of network and information systems should be implemented first, according to German official. (Photo: Pixabay)

Germany has poured cold water on the European Commission's proposal for a stronger EU cybersecurity agency.

A German government agency official said on Tuesday (10 October) at the Cybersec conference in Krakow that EU member states should first focus on implementing the rules that have already been agreed.

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"The most important response I would like to give is: 'first comes first'," said Roland Hartmann, head of international relations at the German federal office for information security (BSI).

"We at BSI appreciate the ambition of the European Commission to look beyond the NIS directive," said Hartmann, referring to the first-ever pan-EU set of rules on cybersecurity, the directive on security of network and information systems (NIS).

"But we should not neglect that we first need to establish, I would like to call it basic reading and writing skills in Europe, as the NIS directive tells us to, before we get to the advanced mathematics level, as intended by the cybersecurity package," he said metaphorically.

The NIS directive was adopted in July 2016. Member states have until 9 May 2018 to transpose it into national law.

Enisa to become European Cybersecurity Agency

Last month, the EU commission published a legislative proposal on cybersecurity, foreseeing a beefed up role for the Greece-based European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (Enisa), which would be restyled as European Cybersecurity Agency.

The new agency would have a bigger budget and staff, although a spokesman for Enisa told EUobserver earlier on Tuesday that the exact number of additional staff will only be known once the proposal has become law.

The plan can only come into force if it has the backing of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, in which national governments meet.

In the Council, Germany's voice is very strong because it is the largest EU member state.

Hartmann downplayed expectations of Enisa, which currently has 84 staff members, as a pan-EU cybersecurity hub.

"It is important to see that EU member states should create own capacities, and invest in cybersecurity," he said.

"Even an expected Enisa, with a size of 125 or more people, may not substitute increased national efforts. Even more important: we may not risk the already developed national achievements, and we should not risk a thorough implementation of the NIS directive."

The NIS directive will require certain companies to report security breaches to their national government. That will mean there needs to be trust between the two sides - industry and government.

Hartmann said the BSI officials in Germany, as well as national authorities in other countries, have established this "mutual relationship of trust and support" with the relevant industries.

"A pure regulatory, formalistic approach would not lead to the beneficial situation [of] information sharing in Europe," he said.

"Ownership, trust and on-the-ground support are more essential and relevant than the best regulation."

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A new-model EU cybersecurity agency could help states defend their elections against "hybrid attacks", the Commission has said.

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