The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomes the Commission's initiative, considering it an important step in developing an industrial strategy for cybersecurity and a strategic move to achieve robust and comprehensive digital autonomy. These aspects are essential for strengthening Europe's defence mechanisms against the ongoing cyberwarfare that threatens to undermine its political, economic and social systems.
The EESC is in favour of extending the partnership to include the industry, on the basis of firm commitments on the scientific and investment fronts, and by including it in future in the Governing Board. In the event of a tripartite partnership between the European Commission, the Member States and the industry, the involvement of companies from non-EU countries should be limited to those that have long been established on European soil and are fully involved in the European technological and industrial base, and their involvement should be subject to proper screening and oversight mechanisms and to compliance with the principle of reciprocity and confidentiality obligations.
The proposal should explain more clearly how the Centre will be involved in coordinating the funding streams from the Digital Europe and Horizon Europe programmes. Furthermore, in order to increase the budget, it would be advisable to extend the synergies to other EU financial instruments (e.g. regional funds, structural funds, the CEF, the EDF, InvestEU, etc.).
The Committee reiterates the importance of human capital and hopes that – in cooperation with universities, research centres and higher education institutes – the Competence Centre can promote initiatives aimed at educating and training people to a standard of excellence, including through dedicated third-level and secondary-school courses. In the same vein, it is essential to provide for specific support for start-ups and SMEs.