The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) backs the Commission's initiative to create a European industrial, technology and research competence centre for cybersecurity and a network of national coordination centres. The objective is to help the Union develop cybersecurity technological and industrial capacities and increase the competitiveness of the Union's cybersecurity industry.
In the opinion adopted at the January plenary session and put together by Antonio Longo and Alberto Mazzola, the EESC underlines that the Commission's proposal is an important step in developing an industrial strategy for cybersecurity and at the same time represents 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 political, economic and social systems.
Our society as a whole is affected. In just ten years, we have seen an exponential increase in cyberattacks around the world from 800 000 to 8 million, highlighted Mr Longo.
We endorse the conclusions of the 2017 Tallinn digital summit to make the EU a global leader in cybersecurity by 2025 and support the Commission's initiative aimed at setting up a centre of competence to coordinate the national centres and to act as a reference point for the cybersecurity community, he said.
- A public-private partnership
A public-private partnership ("cPPP") on cybersecurity is a cornerstone of the strategy.
We are in favour of extending the partnership to include industry, on the basis of firm commitments on the scientific and investment fronts. We advocate a tripartite approach involving the European Commission, Member States and companies" added Mr Mazzola.
We also have to leave the door open to non-EU businesses, but they will have to meet the EU's conditions, otherwise it will not be possible for them to take part, he concluded. In the event of a tripartite partnership between the European Commission, the Member States and industry, the involvement of companies from non-EU countries would indeed be limited to those that have long been established on European soil and are fully involved in the European technological and industrial base. Proper screening would be carried out and compliance with the principle of reciprocity and the confidentiality obligation would be checked.
The budget proposed by the EU is around EUR 2 billion and would come from the Digital Europe programme. This would be complemented by an amount to be determined from the Horizon Europe programme and a total contribution from the Member States at least matching the one from the EU. The Committee points out that the Commission's proposal should explain more clearly how the competence centre will be involved in coordinating the funding streams from the Digital Europe and Horizon Europe programmes. In addition, in order to increase the budget, it would be advisable to extend the synergies to other EU financial instruments, such as regional and structural funds.
- A centre of excellence
Once it is set up, the competence centre should promote, in cooperation with universities, research centres and higher education institutes, initiatives aimed at educating and training people to a standard of excellence (for example, through dedicated third-level and secondary-school courses) and at providing specific support for start-ups and SMEs.