Press statement by Vice-President Schinas on the EU Security Union Strategy

© European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service, Margaritis Schinas© European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service, Margaritis Schinas

“Check against delivery”

Let me start with a personal note. I will never forget standing in this very room, in March 2016, on the very day the city of Brussels was brutally and indiscriminately attacked by terrorists. This day crystallised very clearly that we had a sense of security that affects us all, with hundreds of fellow officials and friends in this Easter week moving to the airport or being in the Brussels metro. This moment was a particularly striking moment, because if anyone ever doubted the need for an EU approach to security, that day and the far too numerous other attacks that took place on European soil before and after that day, those doubts were immediately erased.

We also know that security is a cross-cutting issue which has to take into account almost every sphere of life and policy.

We are not starting from scratch. We had in the previous Commission a Security Agenda, but we are now trying to increasingly close down the space in which hostile actors can operate. We also want to build resilience against attacks and enhance our response capacity.

We are mainly proposing today a new house with a single roof.

It lays the foundations for a security ecosystem that spans across the policy board.

It goes well beyond the purview of the DGs, ministries and departments traditionally in charge of security and encompasses instruments from policy areas such as the economy and social affairs, environment, agriculture, finance, transport and infrastructure, education, information, health. All these are building blocks of this new single-roof strategy.

And this is precisely what the College adopted today. A Strategy that seeks to overcome fragmentation across policy silos. But it also overcomes another equally important fragmentation: the false dichotomy between online and offline, between digital and physical threats. And a third fragmentation between internal and external security concerns.

Because the reality is that security threats do not respect geographical borders, and these days physical and digital systems are interdependent.

Let me take you into four families of issues, the building blocks of this new Strategy.

First, Critical Infrastructure.

We do have an existing framework for protection and resilience of our critical infrastructures but it is a framework that has not kept pace with evolving nature of threats. Increasing interdependencies mean that disruptions in one sector can have an immediate impact on operations in others: an attack on electricity production could knock out telecommunications, hospitals, banks or airports, while an attack on digital infrastructure could lead to disruptions in networks for power or finance. We need to urgently address these interconnections and interdependencies, with robust critical infrastructure protection.

This is why we will bring forward soon modernised legislation on protecting at the same level physical and digital and we must modernise the legislation where this will mean better cooperation, better information exchange and a level playing field.

This is work that we will be doing together with Vice-President Vestager and Commissioner Breton.

Second cluster of concerns: Cybercrime

Technology brought new opportunities but at the same time, huge risks.

The dark web is a reality. The cost of cybercrime is expected to reach EUR 5.5. trillion by the end of this year. And the level of cybercrime and the sophistication of it has skyrocketed during the lockdowns. We saw scams, ransomware, miracle cures, all sorts of threats, and it is time for the EU to do more in this field. We will make sure that the current legislation rendering cybercrime a criminal offence will enforce dissuasive sanctions in all Member States. And we will launch a reflection on other actions that will help prevent the spread of cybercrime and help citizens and companies have access to better solutions. And we will work with our Agency, ENISA, to build on its recently renewed mandate to do much more and better, and that will happen by the end of the year.

Third, Hybrid Threats.

Hybrid threats are happening increasingly often, affect our foreign policy and security, are being orchestrated by forces and countries who do not want to see the EU succeed. And we will closely work with the High-Representative/ Vice-President Borrell to align these internal and external dimensions of interdependence in tackling cyber threats.

Lastly, what we are presenting today will also cover Organised Crime, which is an area particularly under the responsibility of Commissioner Johansson. She will share with you now more details on the proposals on drugs, firearms trafficking and child sexual abuse online.

You see the Commissioner and myself today, but the Security Union Strategy has been a colossal effort that has brought together practically all Members of the College, and I want to thank publicly all colleagues for their commitment and their willingness to contribute to this major collective endeavour.

A final remark: all the proposed actions and initiatives that we are envisaging in the field of the Security Union Strategy will fully respect fundamental rights and our European values. Those values are the ones that determine our European way of life and we will under no circumstances sacrifice them on the altar of security. Security in fact is a way to protect our human rights and fundamental rights. Security is also a shared responsibility, and we are determined – the Commissioner, myself and the College – to work closely the Parliament and Council and keep them fully informed and involved – through regular Security Union reports as well as joint debates.

In a nutshell, this is how the von der Leyen Commission translates the Europe that protects. This is the Europe that protects setting for security policy in the 4 and a half years to come.

For more information

Press release: EU Security Union Strategy: connecting the dots in a new security ecosystem

Communication on the EU Security Union Strategy

Questions and Answers: Delivering on a Security Union

Press release: Delivering on a Security Union: initiatives to fight child sexual abuse, drugs and illegal firearms

Security Union – Commission website