Hybrid crisis simulation finds EU, NATO, national governments and the private sector are not ready


Peace, Security & Defence

More and better cooperation can enable Europe to improve its resilience and respond faster and better to hybrid threats

Brussels – As NATO Leaders gather this week in London, there is one key issue missing from their agenda: only closer and more effective cooperation between governments, international organisations and the private sector can enable Europe to improve its resilience and respond faster and better to hybrid threats, be they malicious acts or natural disasters.

That is one of the key takeaways from Friends of Europe’s ground-breaking Table Top exercise on critical infrastructure protection, which brought together these key actors around the table for the first time.

The protection of vital critical infrastructure may not be on the agenda of the NATO Leaders meeting in London this week, but it will undoubtedly be a priority security challenge for both NATO and the EU in the years ahead. Europe’s critical infrastructure is vulnerable to a number of threats whether to energy grids, important transport links, ports and telecommunications and cyberspace

Jamie Shea, Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe and former deputy assistant secretary-general at NATO.

Since Russia’s aggression in Ukraine in 2014, which led to the illegal annexation of Crimea and occupation and conflict in the east of the country, the West has stepped up its response to the threat of hybrid attacks. However, there is a widespread recognition that much more needs to be done so that NATO and the European Union can provide timely, joined-up approaches to hybrid challenges. Those responses need to bring in civil and military players, link up national authorities with international organisations and unite the public and private sectors in a whole-of-society approach to prepare for, deter and defend against hybrid threats.

The outcome of the Table Top exercise, which saw the participation of high-level representatives from port authorities, banks, NATO, national governments, and much more, culminated in a publication outlining recommendations to better secure Europe from hybrid threats. These cover six themes for public-private cooperation: the private sector, EU-NATO cooperation, attribution, civil-military cooperation, the media and communications, and whole-of-society resilience.

The exercise report and its recommendations are essential reading for policy makers and expert practitioners alike

Jamie Shea, Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe and former deputy assistant secretary-general at NATO.

Recommendations include:
• Since businesses are often the first to spot emerging problems, information exchange networks should be created to allow two-way flows of early warning data.
• Establishing definitions of what type of hybrid activity would constitute an attack able to trigger responses under the North Atlantic Treaty or the EU’s Lisbon Treaty mutual defence and solidarity clauses.
• Intelligence needs to be improved to generate timely forensic and technical reports on who is behind hybrid action and provide a clear initial response.
• Cooperation between military and the private sector should be improved as the latter is in a position to provide detailed information on critical infrastructures and technical expertise to allow authorities to better respond to the threat if military action is necessary.
• Cooperation between the public affairs and communications teams of NATO, the EU and individual allies/member states needs to be intensified.
• The EU, NATO and national governments need to work with local governments to bring citizens and the private sector to plan ahead together, prepare together, and practice together, in order to be ready together.

Editor’s note
To download the full report, click here
For more information about the Table Top exercise, click here

Angela Pauly
Head of Communications at Friends of Europe
+ 32 2 893 98 16

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