European Council chief pitches EU ‘cyber force’

Lazy eyes listen


To keep Russia at bay and seize the lead in the developing field of cyber-defense, the European Defence Agency must establish a “European cyber force” with offensive capabilities, European Council President Charles Michel told an audience at the agency’s annual conference on Thursday.

Michel stated that cyber-defense is the future of security, and that Europe must get in on the ground floor by establishing a bloc-wide cyber-force and making it a “fundamental component” of the EDA. “It would help us to take a position of leadership in cyber response operations and information superiority, and I believe it should be equipped with offensive capabilities,” Michel went on to say.

Michel’s excitement for cyber-warfare was shared by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who claimed that individual countries should delegate responsibility for defending cyberspace – a “flagship capability” – to the EU.

Both leaders advocated for additional “collaborative spending” on defence, portraying EU spending on the Ukraine crisis as a success story. However, instead of pooling their resources and supporting continental businesses, member states are “buying alone and buying abroad,” according to von der Leyen, while Michel has called for member states to remove regulatory red tape to streamline the purchase of weapons systems in order to better confront the Russian threat.

To sweeten the bargain, von der Leyen proposed that states who participated by raising their contributions to the EU’s war chest enjoy fiscal benefits such as debt forgiveness. Even previously stable countries, like as Germany, have suffered economic hardship as a result of investing billions of dollars into the Ukraine conflict and cutting themselves off from their most economical source of oil and gas through sanctions against Russia.

The European Commission announced earlier this year a collaboration with private enterprises on a €1.1 billion pan-European “cyber-shield,” which will include systems for the prevention and detection of cyberattacks, as well as an emergency response mechanism. While the details of the verification process for private-sector partners have not been decided upon, legislators are expected to vote to establish and fund the cyber-shield next week.

The European Parliament reported a “sophisticated” denial-of-service attack last year coinciding with a vote to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, blaming a “pro-Kremlin group” for the infiltration, which kept its website offline for several hours.