The European Union has to face serious threats, like violent radicalisation, chemical attacks, cyber attacks and misinformation campaigns. They all have a common destabilising denominator and endanger our society, and they also undermine the fundamental values of the EU.
Hybrid threats are those activities, whether military or not, that use more or less conventional methods and originate from state actors or actors from outside the state with the aim of meeting specific political objectives. They are multi-dimensional, combine coercive with subversive measures while using tools and techniques of a different nature. These threats focus on critical vulnerabilities and aim to create confusion to make it difficult to take effective decisions.
Hybrid attacks can be applied in different ways. Cyber attacks on critical information systems with the interruption of critical services, the weakening of trust in government institutions and the deepening of social divisions are some examples of these. Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats spread using non-conventional methods are considered to be in a category of their own as a consequence of the potential damage they can cause.
Faced with this situation, the EU has to improve its capacity to detect malicious activities in their primary phase and must increase the level of resilience of critical infrastructures, of societies and institutions. The fight against hybrid threats requires firm action from member states, as well as close collaboration with NATO members. All of these are fundamental in order to improve the capacity to resist and recover from attacks.
In 2015 22 action areas were identified, ranging from raising awareness to providing resilience. The following are some of the actions taken:
- Create an organism to gather information and intelligence from member states to inform those responsible about decision making.
- Create a European Excellence Centre in Helsinki to combat hybrid threats for research and analysis involving member states of the EU and NATO allies.
- Carry out strategic and proactive communication and provide follow-up for means of communication to counter false news.
- Increase resilience in the energy sector with a variety of sources and energy routes and promote security standards.
- Prepare civil protection drills to assess the level of preparation in crisis situations.
- Address online misinformation to make Internet more secure, prevent interference in elections and provide the EU with better information for its policies.
Some pending challenges focus on the need to improve early detection of hybrid threats and increase measures against misinformation campaigns; detect malicious activities and their origin within and outside the EU, and understand the connection between apparently non-related events. It is also necessary to enhance preparation in terms of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks, as well as reinforce cyber security and counter intelligence measures.
Links of interest:
- A Europe that Protects: Countering Hybrid Threats
- Improve resilience to hybrid threats in Europe
- A common vision :combined action: a strong Europe
- A European action plan towards a European defence association
- A Europe that focuses on security the Commission opens a debate about the need to advance towards a security and defence union
- Joint report to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats – a European Union response
- Joint communication about the fight against hybrid attacks: A European Union response