The EU commits to developing plans to protect its critical infrastructure
Suspicions of Russian sabotage of European gas pipelines have embarrassed the European Union. It must now develop a plan to protect its critical infrastructure.
“Sabotage of Nord Stream gas pipelines has shown how vulnerable our energy infrastructure is. For the first time in recent history, she has become a target.”said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday (October 5) in front of the European Parliament.
Four leaks were discovered last week on the two Nord Stream pipelines that connect Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea.
An investigation is underway, but westerners believe these leaks are most likely the result of a deliberate act. Sweden and Denmark have written a letter to the UN Security Council.
EU leaders will discuss the issue at an informal summit in Prague on Friday. European countries have already tightened security measures to maintain energy supplies in the North Sea and off the Italian coast.
These incidents have prompted some countries to send in the military to secure potentially vulnerable power systems.
EU member states must strengthen the protection of their critical infrastructure by conducting stress tests and using satellite monitoring to detect potential threats, Ms von der Leyen said.
“Pipelines and submarine cables connect European citizens and businesses with the whole world. They enable the transmission of data and the transport of energy. It is in the interest of all Europeans to better protect this critical infrastructure.”She added.
Ireland had already raised concerns about the security of its undersea communications cables earlier last week.
Norway has said its allies will help it patrol around its offshore oil and gas platforms after the blasts.
The European Commission, meanwhile, announced last week that it would conduct a “stress test” on the security of Europe’s critical infrastructure, but the implications of such a move remained unclear.
“It came as a surprise to many in Brussels that such ‘stress tests’ did not appear to be conducted more regularly, or that the EU executive lacked the situational awareness to make a blanket statement about its critical infrastructure.”an EU official told EURACTIV on condition of anonymity.
This would also be the result of the fact that the Union has been for years “lived in peace” and was unable to anticipate potential attacks that could become a reality, the EU official added.
The Strategic Compass, the bloc’s recently adopted military strategy, makes for the first time a veiled reference to the changing geopolitical situation in the EU neighborhood that is having repercussions “The security of our citizens, our critical infrastructure and the integrity of our borders”.
However, it mainly relates to cyber threats.
“We must also be able to respond quickly and forcefully to cyberattacks, such as malicious state-sponsored cyberactivities targeting critical infrastructure and ransomware attacks.”displays the Strategic Compass.
The EU’s five-point plan
The EU executive is updating its 2008 Critical Infrastructure Directive. The revised directive aims to cover 11 risk areas, including natural disasters, terrorist attacks, insider threats and sabotage, but also public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new law is set to come into force in 2024, but Ms. von der Leyen has said so “We can and must now work on this basis”.
To this end, the Commission President announced that she would soon present a five-point plan covering various aspects of the EU’s preparedness to face such threats.
Europe needs to be better prepared, she said, citing new legislation to boost the resilience of critical EU entities due to be voted on in the European Parliament next week.
The Union must also subjugate its infrastructure “Stress Tests”especially in connection with the energy supply, but also “other high-risk industries”including digital submarine cables and power grids.
“We don’t have to wait for anything to happen, but we have to make sure we’re prepared and that’s why we need these stress tests.”She said.
“We need to identify our vulnerabilities, if we have any, and determine where those vulnerabilities lie. Of course, we need to prepare our response to sudden disruptions. Then what do we do? Are all information channels available? Is everyone informed? Does this emergency scenario really work in our single market?she told the European Parliament.
At the same time, Europe should also increase its response capacity, in particular by providing fuel and generators to the affected areas through the Civil Protection Mechanism.
The alleged Nord Stream sabotage has also raised questions about how to protect such infrastructure.
Ms von der Leyen highlighted the use of satellites to monitor the situation and stressed the need to strengthen coordination with NATO.
“We have satellites deployed, we have the surveillance capacity to detect potential threats, so it’s also a matter of prevention and awareness.”She said.
NATO is increasing its readiness
NATO’s Nordic members and partners have already started to strengthen security.
“All information currently available indicates that this is the result of intentional, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage.”the North Atlantic Council said in a statement last week.
He also said he was committed “Prepare, Deter, and Defend Against Forced Use of Energy and Other Hybrid Tactics by State and Non-State Actors”.
“Any deliberate attack on Allied critical infrastructure would be met with a unified and determined response”added the council.
However, behind closed doors, NATO diplomats admitted that it would “pretty hard” ensure that Russia’s ability to sabotage European infrastructure is limited.
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