Defense News writes today about a briefing for reporters by EU counterterrorism coordinator Gijs de Vries on January 19th, where he outlined his key counterterrorism and homeland security priorities for 2006:
Protecting critical infrastructure and developing the ability to rapidly react to attacks will count among Europeâ€™s main homeland security goals in 2006, says the European Unionâ€™s top official for counterterrorism policy.
Protection of Europeâ€™s ports and harbors will get special attention, as will efforts to fill the gaps in rapid-reaction equipment designated by the 25 EU nations for deployment following a pan-European terrorist event, he said.
â€œCritical infrastructure protection [CIP] is clearly going to be a priority for the EU in 2006,â€ Gijs de Vries, the unionâ€™s counterterrorism coordinator, told a small gathering of policy officials and reporters here Jan. 19.
The story goes on to discuss the way that the European Union is analyzing critical infrastructure:
Noting that a network of national CIP experts will be created later this year, he said the work will focus initially on Europeâ€™s transportation, communications and energy networks, while addressing â€œthe important aspect of public-private cooperation and partnerships, since the private sector owns a substantial part of Europeâ€™s critical infrastructures in these areas.â€
The European Commission, the EU executive branch, recently completed a first analysis of the horizontal risks and tasks linked to protecting Europeâ€™s critical infrastructure. But as de Vries noted, â€œWe donâ€™t yet know if this should be tackled on a sector-specific, national or cross-border basis.â€
To me, the answer to this last question is clear: infrastructure protection should in most instances be addressed on a cross-border basis. After all, the major blackout in Italy in 2003 was the result of supply line malfunction in France. And it should be largely cross-sectoral, given the natural interdependencies of the key sectors of critical infrastructure, e.g. transport, energy, telecommunications, and finance.
The article also notes some interesting commentary by de Vries on the need for cross-border rapid reaction capabilities in response to a terror attack in Europe. And it suggests that authorities for crisis management and communications are very ambiguous in the current EU governance structure.