The EU and NATO share a common interest in preventing disruptions to critical infrastructure that provides essential services to citizens and supports our economies. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has brought new risks, physical and cyber-attacks, often combined as a hybrid threat.

The EU and NATO have stepped up their cooperation with the launch of the EU-NATO Task Force on resilience of critical infrastructure on 16 March 2023. The EU-NATO Task Force has now presented a final assessment report, which maps out the current security challenges and identifies four key sectors of cross-cutting importance: energy, transport, digital infrastructure and space. The report presents targeted recommendations to strengthen the resilience of critical infrastructure.

Energy: The sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines illustrated the vulnerability of energy infrastructure. Energy security is more challenging in the current geopolitical environment. Moreover, military activities significantly rely on civilian energy networks and supplies. Energy infrastructure is also networked, so disruption in one location can have a broader impact. Decisive steps were taken by Member States and Allies to reduce our dependence on Russian energy. The growing use of renewable energy sources and electrification can also strengthen resilience because it increases the diversity of sources and autonomy and reduces reliance on a single central system. On the other hand, the new infrastructure and connections also bring new challenges in terms of infrastructure protection. The increased reliance on renewable energy also brings potential supply chain vulnerabilities since many of their critical components are still largely concentrated outside of NATO and the EU.

Transport: Transport infrastructure, including airports and seaports, is also vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which can inflict substantial economic damage and possibly cause disruptions for use by the military. Our militaries rely heavily on civil and commercial transport infrastructure to deploy their activities. Furthermore, the transport sector is affected by and has a significant impact the other sectors covered in this report, and these interdependencies are growing. The increasing electrification of transport will lead to a greater reliance on the electricity grid, batteries and associated infrastructure, in addition to existing dependencies on pipelines for hydrocarbon products that will remain part of the energy mix for the foreseeable future. Moreover, transport infrastructure is increasingly digitalised, making it more vulnerable to malicious cyber activities and disruptions.

Digital infrastructure: A wide range of infrastructure is required to provide information and communications services, from underground and undersea fibre-optic cables to cellular base stations and satellites. The reliance on undersea cables and 5G networks poses risks due to limited repair capabilities and increased vulnerability. Moreover, digital infrastructure relies on global supply chains. These are vulnerable to accidental and intentional disruptions, which could impact global networks and introduce security risks.

Space: Space infrastructure encompasses both space-based assets and ground-based systems, which can be vulnerable to various human-induced and natural risks. Space assets can be owned and operated by the EU (Galileo, Copernicus), Member States, Allies and, increasingly, commercial entities. Strategic competitors and potential adversaries are developing counter-space capabilities that could threaten NATO and the EU’s access to and freedom of operation in space, potentially disrupting critical infrastructure.

Source: European Commission

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