Cyber defence: MEPs call for better EU cooperation

On May 16, the Foreign Affairs committee approved a resolution on cyber defence by 45 votes to 8, with 8 abstentions. This report might well become a cornerstone in the global policy debate on cybersecurity.

A call for better EU cooperation

Indeed, the debate until the adoption of the final version of the report on cyber defence was quite rich. More than three hundred amendments were made in order to expand or flesh out certain issues, and most have led to satisfactory compromises.

Except for the GUE/NGL group which will be presenting a minority report, all MEPs agreed that it was urgent to foster EU integration in cyber defence, in particular by increasing coordination between the European Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Defence Agency (EDA), the EU cybersecurity agency (ENISA) and the Member States.

This echoes a former debate in the Parliament’s security and defence committee on cybersecurity in CSDP missions and operations, on April 25, where MEP Ana Gomes highligthed her shock at hearing EEAS experts say that there is not yet integration in cyber defence.

« We have very little resources and we waste them in not cooperating, » she said.

While cyber attacks from state and non-state actors are getting more and more numerous, EU Member States fail to agree on the ENISA reform, with some wanting to exclude national security from its mandate. But as underlined by MEP Zdrojewski in a subcommittee debate one day before the report was approved:

“We’re always running behind in terms of cybersecurity. The report is heading in the right direction, it will force us to a quicker response. Cybersecurity is not a problem of a single or several Member States, it’s a concern for all of us.”

The EU should assume a leading role

The report goes further than that. It states that the EU should act as a platform for European cooperation on cyberdefence, to ensure that the new endeavours are closely coordinated at an international level and within the transatlantic security architecture. Cooperation with NATO is of the utmost importance and must continue… but it is not enough, as the rapporteur of the report Urmas Paet said:

“Let’s not forget that not all EU members are NATO members. Let’s not forget that it is not enough. There are still some slight turbulences in the EU-NATO relation.”

For example, the EU should assume a leading role on the ongoing debate for international norms and rules on cyberdefence and their enforcement.

This led to divergences with MEPs from the ECR group, who fear that overlapping competences might « deteriorate our defence. »

A single market in cybersecurity

Cyber defence could be a first example for more EU cooperation, but it also an opportunity to develop the EU industry. Indeed, the report calls for a single market in cybersecurity to promote joint investments, research and developpement. This is in line with what Jyrki Katainen, European Commission vice-president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said in an opinion on “Cybersecurity and defence for the future of Europe” in the EU Observer.

« Cybersecurity often pops up when we speak about risks and threats. However, cybersecurity – and security in general – is more than that. Cybersecurity is a digital and technological enabler for industrial modernisation, for effective defence and for successful development of artificial intelligence.

Cybersecurity is primarily a strategic and political issue, and also more strategic-political-social research analysis is needed.

Algorithms and technologies cannot be developed only outside Europe and based on different sets of values than European ones. Europe should show the way to the world also in these ethical and moral considerations. »

© Photo credit : Pixabay « Hacker »

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