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According to European Council chief Charles Michel, the EU needs a special “cyber force” to boost its defensive capabilities.

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Speaking at the European Defense Agency (EDA) annual conference on Thursday, Michel advocated a “European cyber force” that would be a “fundamental component” of Europe’s defence.

“This will help us take a leadership position in cyber response operations and information superiority and I believe it should be equipped with offensive capabilities,” he said.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen also suggested that cyber warfare should be one of the tasks of Brussels – as opposed to member states – in the bloc’s defense overhaul.

“We must identify key capabilities at European level,” he said. “For example, capabilities that are European in nature, such as strategic enablers, such as cyber capabilities or satellite or strategic transportation.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted an increase in EU defense spending and forced the bloc to examine its defense policy.

Brussels has broken new ground by fast-tracking legislation to help pool resources through joint procurement, while boosting investment in the bloc’s defense industry, such as through the European Defense Industry Reinforcement through Joint Procurement Act (EDIRPA). and Act in Support of Ammunition Production (as soon as possible).

But the group has done little to address the threat posed by cyber warfare, which is often used by the Kremlin. de-stabilize and destroy critical digital infrastructure in both Ukraine and EU countries.

Russia’s aggression has also been accompanied by large-scale operations in cyberspace. Just an hour before Russia moved its tanks into Ukraine in February 2022, a Kremlin-led attack on satellite internet connections across Europe was carried out.

Last year it was the European Parliament targeted in a sophisticated denial-of-service (DoS) attack by a pro-Kremlin group, on the same day that parliament voted to declare Russia a state-sponsor of terrorism.

Reports of retaliatory cyber attacks by Ukrainian groups reach Russia alert The West says attacks in the cyber domain could lead to direct military conflict.

In April, the bloc announced new plans To protect ourselves from cyber attacks, we entrust some of our security to private companies. But while these plans focus on prevention over response, Mitchell’s proposed “offensive” capabilities suggest the bloc could consider targeted operations in cyberspace.

Offensive cyber operations are generally considered to be aimed at manipulating, disrupting, or even destroying critical infrastructure, and Mitchell’s reference to cyber “forces” is already in use by military factions such as Present in many EU member states.

“Spend better, spend together”

Despite a surge in defense spending since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe’s arms industry is struggling to keep pace with demand.

Part of the problem is the fragmented nature of the arms market, with EU countries traditionally purchasing at a national level.

Brussels wants member states to pool their resources to make purchases more efficient and ensure the bloc can continue supplying Kiev without depleting its own stocks.

Michel explained, “As long as EU defense companies are structured on a national basis, demand will come primarily from their respective national governments. And that creates a style of production that is out of step with the geopolitical reality we face.” Doesn’t match.”

Von der Leyen meanwhile reported that “there has been only a slight improvement in cooperative spending by member states. It is still below 20%, far from our target of 35%.

“Furthermore, the latest data shows that the vast majority of the additional funds have been spent outside the EU,” he added. “So we are mainly buying alone and buying abroad,”

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Von der Leyen also suggested that EU member states could receive fiscal incentives in exchange for increased defense spending.

Defense investment “can underpin the extension of a member state’s fiscal adjustment period,” von der Leyen explained, and it “can be a relevant factor when we assess whether a member state has an excessive deficit. ”

“There is scope for further targeted and time-limited adaptation to reduce near-term financial efforts for Member States that are simultaneously increasing their defense spending,” he said.

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