With cyberspace as a field of strategic competition, the risks to the security and defence of the European Union are increasing at a time of rising geopolitical tensions and heavy reliance on digital technologies.
In this vein, the European Council has approved conclusions on cyber defence that underline the need for the Union and its member states to further strengthen their resilience in dealing with cyber threats and enhance common cybersecurity and cyber defence against malicious behaviour and acts of aggression in cyberspace.
The conclusions welcome the Joint Communication of the European Commission and the High Representative on EU policy on cyber defence and underline the importance of investing substantially, both individually and collaboratively, in improved resilience and the deployment of defensive cyber defence capabilities. EU cooperation frameworks and financial incentives can play a key role in this sense.
In accordance with the strategic compass, the conclusions invite member states and other relevant actors to act together for a more robust cyber defence, by boosting cooperation and coordination within the EU, between the military and civilian cyber communities and between the public sector and a trusted private ecosystem. The Council welcomes the proposal for an EU cyber defence coordination centre to improve the coordination and situational awareness, in particular, of EU mission and operational commanders and to strengthen the Union’s wider command and control architecture.
The Council encourages Member States to protect the Union’s defence ecosystem by further enhancing their own capabilities to carry out cyber defence operations, including, when applicable, proactive defensive measures to protect, detect, defend against and deter cyber attacks. The EU and its member states should minimise their strategic dependencies through capabilities and supply chains, on top of developing and mastering cutting-edge cyber defence technologies. This includes strengthening the European defence technological and industrial base.
Moreover, the European Council urges Member States to invest in interoperable cyber defence capabilities, including by developing a set of voluntary commitments for the development of national cyber defence capabilities, and by making the best use of collaborative research opportunities at the Union level. The Council also acknowledges the direct benefit of collaborative projects at the EU level to promote the development of national cyber defence capabilities.
In addition, the Council welcomes member states to address the significant cybersecurity skills gap, leveraging synergies between military, civilian and law enforcement initiatives.
Finally, the Council stresses the key importance of partnership in addressing common challenges. It requests the High Representative and the Commission to explore mutually beneficial and tailored partnerships on cyber defence policies, including building cyber defence capabilities through the European Peace Facility (EPF). To this end, cyber defence should be added as an item to EU dialogues and consultations on cyber defence and to the general security and defence consultations with partners.