The heads of government of the EU member states are concerned about a “significant increase in malicious cyber activities” aimed at, for example, “undermining the security of the central functions of our societies”. In the conclusions of their summit that ended on Friday, they reaffirm their “unwavering determination to defend democratic values, both online and offline”.
Foreign policy thrust
The main thrust of the announcement is foreign policy. Internally, critics such as civil rights activists and data protection activists complain again and again that the government representatives of the EU countries, among other things, want to weaken end-to-end encryption and reintroduce data retention. The proponents of such measures, which cut deeply into fundamental rights, often say that there should be no “legal free space” on the Internet. The opponents reply that this must also apply to the protection of fundamental rights.
The European Council now emphasizes in general terms in the final document of the meeting “The EU’s advocacy for an open, free, stable and secure cyberspace”. He urges countries around the world to “comply with and enforce these standards”. He appeals to the EU committees to move forward with the work on the proposal for a reform of the directive on network and information security, the planned measures for the resilience of critical infrastructures and the “Cyber Diplomacy Toolbox”.
Aimed for common cyber unit
The Heads of State also stress “the need for effective coordination and preparedness in the face of cyber threats”. Therefore, the European cybersecurity crisis management framework and an effective EU-level response to major relevant incidents and crises need to be further developed. More exercises could serve this purpose. The potential of a common cyber unit should also be explored. The fight against cybercrime – especially against ransomware attacks – and cooperation with partner countries in this area should be stepped up.
According to its own information, the Council has also reviewed the progress made on the digital agenda and important related legislative dossiers. He encourages the responsible bodies to come to an agreement on the regulation on free roaming in mobile communications by the end of the year. The committees are also to continue their work on the draft laws on digital services and markets (Digital Services or Markets Act) for platform regulation in order to reach an “ambitious agreement” as soon as possible.
EU-owned microchip ecosystem, exploit data potential
The heads of government also advocate promoting a “state-of-the-art European microchip ecosystem along the entire value chain” and further strengthening resilience in the semiconductor sector – including with regard to raw materials. This is of crucial importance “in order to avoid bottlenecks that hinder our digital change”. We look forward to the proposal for a European microchip law announced by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (CDU).
The Council demands that the data potential in Europe must be exhausted. What is required is a comprehensive regulatory framework “that is innovation-friendly, enables better data portability and fair access to data, and guarantees interoperability”. Any outstanding measures from the European data strategy would have to be implemented promptly in order to create common spaces for sharing measured values and information.
“Innovation-friendly” AI legal framework
The government leaders are also campaigning for an “innovation-friendly legal framework” for artificial intelligence (AI). It is important “to accelerate the introduction of this technology in both the private and public sectors, while at the same time guaranteeing security and full respect for fundamental rights”. The Council does not comment on the controversial issue of a ban on biometric mass surveillance. However, he is still calling for a European framework for a digital identity (EUid) and a coordinated approach to it. Disinformation about corona vaccinations must be better combated, especially on social media.