L’Europe qui protège: With digitalisation and globalisation greatly increasing the potential impact of hybrid threats, how can the EU protect its citizens against those threats?
SEDE Action Plan
Motion for an Action Plan by the Committee on Security and Defence
Submitted by: Ali Alonzo (SE), Fotis Athanatos (GR), Minijohana D'Orlando (IT), Gabriella Eckardt (SE), Despoina Mangel (GR), Noor Menten (NL), Alex Nowak (NL), Mirre Prinsze (NL), Maria Sieradzan (PL), Erika Tugaudyte (LT); Henri Haapanala (Chairperson, FI)
Hybrid threats are actions targeted at states aiming to undermine citizens’ confidence in democratic institutions, spread disinformation, or challenge national sovereignty and territorial integrity without crossing the legal threshold of warfare. The risk posed by hybrid threats to the EU, Member States, and European citizens, in cyberspace as well as the physical world, has increased following the unstable geopolitical situation in Ukraine and the growth of political campaigning and news consumption in social media. While the NATO military alliance and the defence ministries of Member States are putting considerable effort into countering hybrid threats, this Action Plan calls for further integration of diplomacy, intelligence, and hard power at the EU level to strengthen the resilience of Europe in this volatile security environment.
The European Youth Parliament recommends taking the following actions on the
Individual and local level
- Calls upon the European Commission to launch a European-wide information campaign across social and traditional media, encouraging a feeling of unity and trust in the democratic institutions of the EU and Member States;
- Asks the European Commission to launch social media campaigns regarding the definitions and types of hybrid threats to raise awareness;
- Invites Member States to provide objective and unbiased information during elections and other significant democratic processes according to the European Democracy Action Plan;
- Strongly recommends that the upcoming Digital Education Action Plan emphasises critical thinking skills and digital literacy;
- Encourages Member States to collaborate on educational programmes including individual and national preparation against cyber attacks, online manipulation and other types of hybrid threats;
- Invites Heads of State and Government to cooperate with the European Council to streamline EU diplomacy with third countries;
- Strongly appeals to Member States’ Ministries of Defence to lead the cross-domain response to hybrid attacks, supporting other ministries if they are disrupted by an attack;
- Urges Member States to further develop their Ministries of Digital Affairs, which would be tasked with:
- defending the security of all private and public internet networks within their jurisdiction,
- supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with their digital security systems through subsidies and one-on-one support;
- Congratulates Member States such as Estonia for their successful rollout of e-voting, while protecting the integrity of democratic processes;
- Suggests Member States to reduce their geopolitical dependency on energy imports from third countries which their relations are not stable and trusted, for example through accelerated investment in renewable energy sources along with the help of their trusted third country partners something which would promote energy efficient and sustainable energy sources not only inside the EU but also near its borders and in other countries;
- Appeals to Member States to develop their national security and defense policies in line with the EU Security Union Strategy;
- Calls for greater funding to the Civil Security for Society cluster of Horizon Europe, with particular regard to research initiatives aiming at increasing cybersecurity capacity across all Member States;
- Supports the further integration of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) with the counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence work of Europol, under a hybrid threat department of the European External Action Service (EEAS);
- Urges the European Commission to draft new anti-disinformation legislation, particularly addressing the major social media platforms with requirements for:
- fact-checking in topics relevant to national security or public health,
- Codes of Conduct and content guidelines,
- rapid responses to data breaches and cyber attacks,
- safety of all social media users, especially ones from vulnerable groups;
- Strongly recommends the Directorate‑General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG Connect) of the European Commission to review the European Digital Services Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), to see which elements are applicable to countering hybrid threats;
- Calls upon the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) to support cyber exercises and technological innovation in the field of cyber defense;
- Supports the ongoing expansion of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) as a projection of European hard power in the external border regions;
- Encourages Member States to improve their military capabilities for responding to hybrid threats on a voluntary basis, through Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
The main aims of this Action Plan are to raise awareness of hybrid threats among Europeans and give the European institutions sufficient resources to lead the response at the EU level. To achieve this, the flow of information and knowledge between Member States must be improved through, for example, a coordinated intelligence-sharing campaign involving all Member States’ Ministries of Defence. This Action Plan also calls for the strengthening of existing security and defense institutions such as Permanent Structured Cooperation, ENISA and Frontex, since their full potential in this field has not yet been tapped. The most appropriate response to hybrid threats involves cross-domain collaboration, where the soft and hard power of the EU meet the geopolitical expertise of Member States in their own territories.