The protection of EU critical infrastructures from hybrid threats


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The security of energy infrastructures is for sure one of the main topics in the European Union when it comes to cyber and military threats to the whole continental network and to the EU member states. Russia’s February 2022 large-scale invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing events highlighted the need for a more active defence of European energy and communication infrastructure, especially in crucial regions such as the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea. In the latter, we saw the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines in September 2022 and, more recently, the damages at the Balticconnector pipeline between Estonia and Finland, together with the communication undersea cables between the two countries and between Estonia and Sweden. What happened in the Baltic Sea can become an example of both the threats to critical infrastructure as well as the risk of not-complete protection of those pipelines and cables. 

How can the European Union assure the security of its infrastructure in such a hostile environment? Leaders of the EU countries, which most of the time are also NATO members, have developed a series of measures in this regard, first of all in increasing cooperation to protect “shared communications and energy infrastructure”, as stated recently by the head of government of the 10-nation Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a framework that involves mainly EU nations. The JEF leaders also agreed on a common vision to bring together military elements “of the broader levers of national power to respond to hybrid security challenges” and “enhance shared situational awareness with greater interconnectivity, enabling common solutions to common challenges.” Still, using military tools to address hybrid threats to infrastructure could be difficult, and this applies to other challenges such as cyberattacks or disinformation campaigns. For the EU as a whole, it will be a challenge in itself to find a solution to new potential attacks while responding in a shared, coordinated, and coherent way.

Written by: Francesco Marino

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