The Communication contributes to the creation of a European Union that protects, as promised by President Juncker in the 2016 State of the Union speech. It builds on initiatives in the area of defence, such as the European Defence Fund and the unprecedented level of cooperation between the EU-NATO that has developed over the past year.
Significant progress has been made on each of the 22 actions to combat hybrid threats identified last year. The EU has improved its awareness and the information exchange between Member States on these growing security threats, which often combine conventional and unconventional methods, ranging from terrorism and cyber-attacks to disinformation campaigns or media manipulation. The EU has also made headway in protecting critical infrastructure in areas such as transport, energy, cybersecurity, and the financial system, as well as in counter violent extremism and radicalisation. But more remains to be done, as the nature of hybrid threats continues to evolve.
The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini said: "Hybrid threats are a major security concern for the European Union, its Member States and our partners. We are working to improve the awareness of the threats through the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell, to monitor and counter illegal online content and propaganda with our Strategic Communication task forces, to enhance the capacities of third countries and to step up our cooperation with NATO. This is at the core of our Global Strategy adopted last year. The safeguard of our society is a priority for the EU."
Vice-President for Jobs, Growth and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen added: "Following our proposal for a European Defence Fund and the reflection paper on the Future of European Defence, we are taking further steps towards a Security and Defence Union. Increased co-operation to address hybrid threats will make us more resilient. The EU adds value by assisting Member States and partners, relying on a wide range of existing instruments and programmes. Our approach brings together the key actors while fully respecting their different roles and responsibilities."
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, added: "Cooperation in security and defence is not an option – it's a must. Europe faces more hybrid, unconventional security challenges than ever. That is why, as the report shows, we are responding an unprecedented level of cooperation between the EU, Member States and NATO to improve resilience, address strategic vulnerabilities and prepare coordinated responses."
As part of the EU's integrated approach to security and defence, the Joint Framework set out a number of actions to prevent, tackle and mitigate the growing challenge of hybrid threats. Work has been taken forward and progress has been made in all areas:
- Improving awareness: the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell wasestablished in 2016, within the European External Action Service, to provide all-source analysis on hybrid threats. Separately, Finland has just launched the European Centre for Countering Hybrid Threats to encourage strategic dialogue and conduct research and analysis. In order to counter the widespread disinformation campaigns and systematic diffusion of fake news, Communication Task Forces for the Eastern and Southern Neighbourhoods have been established.
- Building Resilience: together with Member States, the Commission has been streamlining awareness on hybrid across sectors, including energy, transport, customs, space, health or finance. With the European Aviation Safety Agency, a Computer Emergency Response Team on Aviation and a Task Force on Cyber-security have beenestablished. By the end of 2017, vulnerability indicators will be developed to help improve resilience of critical infrastructure. Technologies and priority capabilities required to counter and strengthen resilience against hybrid threats identified by Member States might be eligible for support under the recently proposed European Defence Fund.
- Protecting Europeans online: in line with the European Agenda on Security, the Commission has taken steps to reduce the availability of illegal content online. In particular the EU Internet Referral Unit established in Europol scans the web for online terrorist material. It has referred tens of thousands of posts to internet companies with on average 90% of these posts then removed. The EU Internet Forum launched in 2015 brings together governments, Europol and the biggest technology and social media companies to ensure that illegal content, including terrorist propaganda, is taken down as quickly as possible.
- Cooperation with third countries has been stepped up, to enhance their capacities and resilience in the security sector. A pilot project risk survey was launched with the cooperation of Moldova, aimed at identifying key vulnerabilities and to ensure EU assistance targeting specifically those areas.
- Preventing, responding to crisis and recovering: an EU operational protocol, the EU Playbook, has been developed which outlines the practical arrangements for coordination, intelligence collation, analysis, and cooperation with NATO. It will be tested through the PACE exercise (Parallel and Coordinated Exercise) in autumn 2017.
- EU-NATO cooperation: the EU and NATO established a common set of 42 proposals to implement the seven areas of cooperation identified in the Joint Declaration signed by President Tusk, President Juncker and Secretary-General Stoltenberg on EU-NATO partnership. Ten out of the 42 actions centre on countering hybrid threats, demonstrating the importance both sides pay to this issue. Interaction between the EU Fusion Cell and the NATO Hybrid Analysis Branch is an important element of EU/NATO cooperation on hybrid threats. For the first time, NATO and EU staff will exercise together their response to a hybrid scenario this year.
The European Union will continue to use all tools and instruments to address and react to potential hybrid threats, acting as a stronger and more responsive security provider, complementing actions by Member States and partners.
The EU and its neighbourhood are confronted today with the rise of security threats aiming at destabilising our region as a whole. No country can face these challenges alone.
The Juncker Commission made security a top priority from day one. The Commission's 2015 European Agenda on Security specifically recognised the need to counter hybrid threats.
The Commission and the High Representative adopted a Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats in April 2016. 22 concrete actions were put forward. The report published today is looking at their specific implementation.
The EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy also makes countering hybrid threats a priority, highlighting the need for an integrated approach to link internal resilience with the EU's external actions.
Following the adoption in November 2016 of the European Defence Action Plan, the Commission put forward a series of initiatives which will contribute to strengthening the EU's capacity to respond to hybrid threats. This includes the European Defence Fund, launched on 7 June 2017, with proposed funding of about €600 million until 2020 and €1.5 billion annually thereafter.
The Commission's reflection paper on the future of European Defence presented in June 2017 outlines different scenarios on how to address the growing security and defence threats facing Europe and enhance Europe's own abilities in defence by 2025.
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