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Remarks by Vice-President Schinas at the press conference on the Recommendation on building a Joint Cyber Unit

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 23 juni 2021.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When we took over under this Commission, we committed to leaving no stone unturned when it comes to our security. We are very happy today that as part of this package, we are also presenting the second Security Union progress report, which precisely shows the many important steps we have taken in this area.

We adopted a new counter terrorism agenda, a new drugs agenda, new strategies on organised crime, firearms, child sexual abuse online and on cybersecurity. We also put a series of legislative proposals on the table - both on reinforcing Europol as well as to improve the resilience of both our physical and digital critical infrastructures networks.

So we have to keep up that momentum, and this is why we are here in front of you with Commissioner Breton today, to discuss cybersecurity.

There was a time when security was seen as something linear, something simple. This is no longer the case. The threat picture continues to evolve and grow exponentially, and the new big threats are the threats to our cybersecurity.

In this Commission, working very closely with Margrethe Vestager and Thierry Breton, we decided to take cybersecurity out of the tech silo. This is not only an industrial consideration anymore, it is an issue of national security. Cybercrime threatens our values, our way of life, our society, our principles, and this is why we need to tackle it together. Together as Europeans, but together with other like-minded partners in the world.

Yesterday, I was in Lisbon to attend the EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial, where, precisely, with our American partners, we coincided, both on the diagnosis, and on the remedies, to tackle cybercrime. The recent attack on the US colonial pipeline demonstrated in no uncertain terms how much of a growing risk ransomware attacks represent to our societies and to our economies. This was a particularly stark example - one that easily galvanised public opinion and also helped focus minds on the need to act now.

We have also had our own share of attacks. During the pandemic, we saw a growing and worrying trend of attacks against our health systems, where health data that is readily available and interconnected, and offers a target. So, we need to be able to cope, that is why I remind you that last December, we were together here to present proposals on critical entities resilience and on the security of network and information systems, to align, at the same level, the level of protection against physical and digital threats.

If you look at the pipeline incident, that was precisely the scenario we are preparing for: a cyberattack, ransomware, which then transcends into a critical infrastructure like a pipeline. With some modesty, we can say that back in December, we had put forward a set of regulatory proposals that would allow Europe to cope with such types of attacks, should this occur with us.

This is also probably a good moment to pass a message to the co-legislators that are now examining these proposals, not to weaken the level of ambition the Commission set in these critical areas.

The Joint Cyber Unit, which Commissioner Breton will now present, is a new element in our toolbox. Together with our cybersecurity Agency, ENISA, this new network will reinforce the overall European constellation of powers that will allow us to fight back against this threat. This is a very operational package. It is a key part of a Europe that protects.


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