The European Commission plans to create a specialised organisation to counter tackle the increasing number of cyber incidents impacting public services, businesses and citizens across the EU.

A drawback to the current situation, in the commission’s view, is that cyber security bodies in the private, public, defence, diplomatic, civilian and law enforcement fields often operate separately.

“With the Joint Cyber Unit, they will have a virtual and physical platform of cooperation: relevant EU institutions, bodies and agencies together with the member states will build progressively a European platform for solidarity and assistance to counter large-scale cyber-attacks,” the commission said.

Participants in the unit will be asked to provide operational resources for mutual assistance, share best practice and exchange real-time information about threats which could emerge in their respective areas. 

The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (Enisa) will serve as secretariat as the unit is set up. The goal is for it to be operational by 30 June next year and fully established within a year.

Margaritis Schinas, vice-president for Promoting our European Way of Life, added: “The recent ransomware attacks should serve as a warning that we must protect ourselves against threats that could undermine our security and our European way of life.

“Today, we can no longer distinguish between online and offline threats. We need to pool all our resources to defeat cyber risks and enhance our operational capacity.”

Josep Borrell, the union’s representative for foreign affairs and security policy, commented: “When it comes to cyber-attacks, we are all vulnerable and that is why cooperation at all levels is crucial … We need to defend ourselves but we also need to serve as a beacon for others in promoting a global, open, stable and secure cyberspace.”

Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, said: “Cyber security is a cornerstone of a digital and connected Europe.”

The proposed Joint Cyber Unit is the result of discussions during recent months into a wider cyber security strategy for the EU. That work continues.