EDA annual conference highlights importance of cyber defence

European Defence Agency chief executive Jorge Domecq has called for better cooperation in the fight against cyber warfare.

The annual EDA conference was held in Brussels | Photo credit: Fotolia

By Martin Banks

24 Nov 2017

Speaking at the European Defence Agency (EDA)’s annual conference, Jorge Domecq said the EU’s new defence tools and the agency’s full potential could be used for helping member states’ armed forces.

The Brussels-based Domceq singled out several key points to emerge from the year’s conference, saying that cyber threats “affect all military capabilities.”

“It’s therefore essential to strengthen the cyber resilience elements in the development of all future platforms and systems, across land, air, maritime or space domains.”


He said armed forces “need to learn their lessons from previous incidents more rapidly and efficiently to be able to better prevent, detect and respond to future attacks.”

Europe is, he said, “stronger if it tackles cyber threats together in a common and coordinated approach.

Member states need to “better coordinate” their cyber strategies” to better protect “special requirements” of the military.

Domceq said, “Our work to improve Europe’s cybersecurity and cyber defence is still in its initial phases. We must lose no time in embracing this golden opportunity to both plan and implement the next steps together. Only in doing so will we ensure that the advent of the digital era remains an opportunity for European citizens in the 21st century”.

The conference in Brussels was attended by a 400-strong audience representing a wide European defence spectrum ranging from governments and armed forces to industry, EU institutions, Nato and think tanks.

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, whose country is the current holder of the EU Council presidency, also spoke at the conference.

She said decision-makers should get to know the cyber field better, pointing out that, “Most contemporary politicians do admit that cyber is important, they speak the language and there is genuine political support behind many cyber defence initiatives.”

Kaljulaid also spoke about her recent visits to Georgia and Africa. According to the her, there are many possibilities for cooperation between the EU and the African Union in the fields of economy, technology and digital development.

“I wish to change the notion that eastern countries are only interested in cooperation with eastern countries, and I definitely intend to pay more attention to southern countries also in the future,” she said.

The Estonian, who gave a keynote address, said that due to the fast development of the cyber field it is not possible to be ready for all possible scenarios or prepare decision-makers for concrete events, but as the first step the level of cyber hygiene should be raised in societies.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, another headline speaker, said the conference was taking place “in the most important moment for European defence in decades” as “bold” new initiatives such as the coordinated annual review on defence (CARD), the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) and the European defence fund (EDF) have created an “unprecedented momentum for enhanced cooperation.”

Opening the conference on Thursday, the Italian official said, “Today, we are building a European Union of security and defence. It’s not a plan, not a dream anymore, but a reality. All the building blocks of a security and defence union are finally there”, she stated. This means that member states can now project and develop their defence capabilities together, she noted.

She added, “We can buy together, to ensure that we have all the capabilities we need while also spending efficiently. And we can act together, much better than before, to manage or prevent crises, to strengthen our partners, to make our citizens more secure”.

Acting together is a necessity “because today’s security challenges are too big for any of our member states alone. Everyone understands this today. Our citizens are asking for more security and more efficient budgets, and the two are only possible if we join forces”, Mogherini stressed.

Turning to the conference topic - cyber defence - Mogherini said cyber was a defence domain where close cooperation was more than ever indispensable.

She said, “Cyber threats require a response that is both civilian and military. To protect our cyberspace, we will need more research, better capabilities, more training and exercises, in constant coordination with our partners”.

Mogherini told the conference that promising new cyber initiatives had been taken by the EU recently - for example the setting up of a hybrid fusion cell within the External Action Service, the inauguration of the European Centre for Countering Hybrid Threats in Helsinki, the first ever European strategic cybersecurity table-top exercise ‘CYBRID’ co-organised last September by the Estonian EU Council presidency and the EDA, or last year’s EU/Nato joint declaration which also covers cybersecurity.

“But,” she cautioned, more needs to be done. We have to explore the full range of possibilities that we have built over the last couple of years with the Commission, member states, the External Action Service and the European Defence Agency”.


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