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4th Feb 2023

EU five-year security plan to focus on critical infrastructure

  • 'From protecting our critical infrastructure to fighting cybercrime and countering hybrid threats, we can leave no stone unturned when it comes to our security,' said commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas (l) (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)

The European Commission unveiled on Friday (24 July) its new strategy for internal and external security over the next five years - which focusses particularly on critical infrastructures, cybersecurity, terrorism, child abuse and drugs.

It puts forward new rules on the protection and resilience of online and offline critical infrastructure - for instance, hospitals, transport or energy supplies - to address the increasing interdependencies between systems.

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The new strategy will also try to find a solution to the existing fragmentation between member states' law, since fragmentation might undermine the EU's internal market and make cross-border coordination more difficult.

"This strategy will serve as an umbrella framework for our security policies," said commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas.

"From protecting our critical infrastructure to fighting cybercrime and countering hybrid threats, we can leave no stone unturned when it comes to our security," he added.

The commission also wants to increase cybersecurity efforts to cope with the increasing amount of cyberattacks - which are every-increasingly sophisticated.

This is especially time-sensitive due to the ongoing roll-out of the 5G infrastructure across the EU and the potential dependence of many critical services on these networks.

"One of the most important long-term needs is to develop a culture of cybersecurity by design, with security built into products and services from the start," reads the strategy.

The EU's response to cyberattacks, meanwhile, continues relying partly on international cooperation - but the commission also identified the need for a 'Joint Cyber Unit' that will work as a platform for coordination efforts.

Moreover, the EU executive wants to tackle organised crime and the terrorism by strengthening Europol's mandate - especially since organised crime groups and terrorists are key players in the trade of illegal firearms.

While the EU's action plan on drugs aims to better address the security and health implications of drug-trafficking and drug-use in Europe.

During the review of Europol's mandate, the commission will also propose to create a European innovation hub for internal security to enhance innovation and research.

Digital Service Act to tackle online child-abuse

Finally, EU commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson announced on Thursday that the EU Executive is considering to oblige online platforms to detect and report child-abuse content.

The Digital Services Act package, to be proposed by the end of 2020, will clarify the level of liability and safety rules for digital services.

In Europe, it is estimated that one-in-five children are victim to some form of sexual violence.

However, Europol found earlier this year that the coronavirus pandemic has increased the sharing volume of abuse content online.

Johansson also said that the commission is considering the creation of a new European centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse - similar to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"Knowing you are safe, online, in public, in your home, for your children, builds trust and cohesion in society," said Johansson.

Officials: Health should become EU 'critical infrastructure'

"The pandemic should be a wake-up call that the EU is facing collective risks requiring not just collective answers, but also the acknowledgement of the already existing interdependencies [of its health systems]," said one expert.

Cybercrime rises during coronavirus pandemic

Cybercrime and cyberattacks have increased due to the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, the World Health Organization, hospitals and research centres are being targeted by organised cybercriminals - searching for information, intelligence, and systems access.

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