OF THE UNION FOR
FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND
JOIN(2016) 18 final
JOINT COMMUNICATION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE
Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats
a European Union response
In recent years, the European Union’s security environment has changed dramatically.
Key challenges to peace and stability in the EU’s eastern and southern neighbourhood
continue to underscore the need for the Union to adapt and increase its capacities as a
security provider, with a strong focus on the close relationship between external and
internal security. Many of the current challenges to peace, security and prosperity
originate from instability in the EU's immediate neighbourhood and changing forms of
threats. In his 2014 Political Guidelines, the European Commission President Jean-
Claude Juncker stressed the need ‘to work on a stronger Europe when it comes to
security and defence’ and to combine European and national instruments in a more
effective way than in the past. Further to this, following the invitation from the Foreign
Affairs Council of 18 May 2015, the High Representative in close cooperation with
Commission services and the European Defence Agency (EDA), and in consultation with
the EU Member States, undertook work to present this joint framework with actionable
proposals to help counter hybrid threats and foster the resilience of the EU and Member
States, as well as partners.1 In June 2015 the European Council recalled the need to
mobilise EU instruments to help counter hybrid threats.2
While definitions of hybrid threats vary and need to remain flexible to respond to their
evolving nature, the concept aims to capture the mixture of coercive and subversive
activity, conventional and unconventional methods (i.e. diplomatic, military, economic,
technological), which can be used in a coordinated manner by state or non-state actors to
achieve specific objectives while remaining below the threshold of formally declared
warfare. There is usually an emphasis on exploiting the vulnerabilities of the target and
on generating ambiguity to hinder decision-making processes. Massive disinformation
campaigns, using social media to control the political narrative or to radicalise, recruit
and direct proxy actors can be vehicles for hybrid threats.
Insofar as countering hybrid threats relates to national security and defence and the
maintenance of law and order, the primary responsibility lies with Member States,
most national vulnerabilities are country-specific. However, many EU Member States
face common threats, which can also target cross-border networks or infrastructures.
Such threats can be addressed more effectively with a coordinated response at EU level
by using EU policies and instruments, to build on European solidarity, mutual assistance
and the full potential of the Lisbon Treaty. EU policies and instruments can and, to a
significant degree already do, play a key value-adding role in building awareness. This is
helping to improve the resilience of Member States to respond to common threats. The
Union’s external action proposed under this framework is guided by the principles set out
in Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which include democracy, the rule
1 Council Conclusions on Common Defence and Security Policy (CSDP), May 2015 [Consilium 8971/15]
2 European Council Conclusions, June 2015 [
of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and respect for the principles of
the United Nations Charter and international law3.
This Joint Communication aims to facilitate a holistic approach that will enable the EU,
in coordination with Member States, to specifically counter threats of a hybrid nature by
creating synergies between all relevant instruments and fostering close cooperation
between all relevant actors.4 The actions build on existing strategies and sectoral policies
that contribute to achieving greater security. In particular, the European Agenda on
Security5, the upcoming European Union Global Strategy for foreign and security policy
and European Defence Action Plan6, the EU Cybersecurity Strategy,7 the Energy
Security Strategy,8 the European Union Maritime Security Strategy9 are tools that may
also contribute to countering hybrid threats.
As NATO is also working to counter hybrid threats and the Foreign Affairs Council
proposed stepping up cooperation and coordination in this area, some of the proposals
aim to enhance EU–NATO cooperation on countering hybrid threats.
The proposed response focuses on the following elements: improving awareness,
building resilience, preventing, responding to crisis and recovering.
RECOGNISING THE HYBRID NATURE OF A THREAT
Hybrid threats aim to exploit a country’s vulnerabilities and often seek to undermine
fundamental democratic values and liberties. As a first step, the High Representative and
the Commission will work together with Member States to enhance situational awareness
by monitoring and assessing the risks that may target EU vulnerabilities. The
Commission is developing security risk assessment methodologies to help inform
decision makers and promote risk-based policy formulation in areas ranging from
aviation security to terrorist financing and money laundering. In addition, a survey by
Member States identifying areas vulnerable to hybrid threats would be pertinent. The aim
would be to identify indicators of hybrid threats, incorporate these into early warning and
existing risk assessment mechanisms and share them as appropriate.
Action 1: Member States, supported as appropriate by the Commission and the High
Representative, are invited to launch a hybrid risk survey to identify key vulnerabilities,
including specific hybrid related indicators, potentially affecting national and pan-
European structures and networks.
3 The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU is binding on the institutions and on the Member States
when they implement Union law.
4 Possible legislative proposals will be subject to Commission better regulation requirements, in line with
Commission’s Better Regulation Guidelines, SWD(2015) 111.
5 COM(2015) 185 final.
6 To be presented in 2016.
7 EU Cyber Defence Policy Framework [Consilium 15585/14] and Joint Communication on ‘Cybersecurity
Strategy of the European Union: An Open, Safe and Secure Cyberspace’, February 2013 [JOIN(2013)1].
8 Joint Communication on ‘European Energy Security Strategy’, May 2014 [
9 Joint communication ‘For an open and secure global maritime domain: elements for a European Union
maritime security strategy — JOIN(2014) 9 final — 06/03/2014.
ORGANISING THE EU RESPONSE: IMPROVING AWARENESS
EU Hybrid Fusion Cell
It is essential that the EU, in coordination with its Member States, has a sufficient level
of situational awareness to identify any change in the security environment related to
hybrid activity caused by State and/or non-state actors. To effectively counter hybrid
threats, it is important to improve information exchange and promote relevant
intelligence-sharing across sectors and between the European Union, its Member States
An EU Hybrid Fusion Cell will offer a single focus for the analysis of hybrid threats,
established within the EU Intelligence and Situation Centre (EU INTCEN) of the
European External Action Service (EEAS). This Fusion Cell would receive, analyse and
share classified and open source information specifically relating to indicators and
warnings concerning hybrid threats from different stakeholders within the EEAS
(including EU Delegations), the Commission (with EU agencies10), and Member States.
In liaison with existing similar bodies at EU11 and at national level, the Fusion Cell
would analyse external aspects of hybrid threats, affecting the EU and its neighbourhood,
in order to rapidly analyse relevant incidents and inform the EU's strategic decision-
making processes, including by providing inputs to the security risk assessments carried
out at EU level. The Fusion Cell's analytical output would be processed and handled in
accordance with the European Union classified information and data protection rules.12
The Cell should liaise with existing bodies at EU and national level. Member States
should establish National Contact Points connected to the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell. Staff
inside and outside the EU (including those deployed to EU delegations, operations and
missions) and in Member States should also be trained to recognise early signs of hybrid
Action 2: Creation of an EU Hybrid Fusion Cell within the existing EU INTCEN
structure, capable of receiving and analysing classified and open source information
on hybrid threats. Member States are invited to establish National Contact Points on
hybrid threats to ensure cooperation and secure communication with the EU Hybrid
Perpetrators of hybrid threats can systematically spread disinformation, including through
targeted social media campaigns, thereby seeking to radicalise individuals, destabilise
society and control the political narrative. The ability to respond to hybrid threats by
employing a sound strategic communication
strategy is essential. Providing swift
10 In accordance with their mandates.
11 For example, Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre and Counter Terrorism Centre, Frontex, EU
Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT)-EU).
12 Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995.
factual responses and raising public awareness about hybrid threats are major factors for
building societal resilience.
Strategic communication should make full use of social media tools, as well as the
traditional visual, audio and web-based media. The EEAS, building on the activities of
the East and Arab Stratcom Task Forces, should optimise the use of linguists fluent in
relevant non-EU languages and social media specialists, who can monitor non-EU
information and ensure targeted communication to react to disinformation. Furthermore,
Member States should develop coordinated strategic communication mechanisms to
support attribution and counter disinformation in order to expose hybrid threats.
Action 3: The High Representative will explore with Member States ways to update
and coordinate capacities to deliver proactive strategic communications and optimise
use of media monitoring and linguistic specialists.
Centre of Excellence for ‘countering hybrid threats’
Building on the experience of some Member States and partner organisations13, one or a
network of multinational institutes could act as a Centre of Excellence addressing hybrid
threats. Such a Centre could focus on researching how hybrid strategies have been
applied, and could encourage the development of new concepts and technologies within
the private sector and industry to help Member States build resilience. The research could
contribute to aligning EU and national policies, doctrines and concepts, and to ensuring
that decision-making can take account of the complexities and ambiguities associated
with hybrid threats. Such a Centre should design programmes to advance research and
exercises to find practical solutions to existing challenges posed by hybrid threats. The
strength of such a Centre would rely on the expertise developed by its multinational and
cross-sector participants from the civilian and military, private and academic sectors.
Such a Centre could work closely with existing EU14 and NATO15 centres of excellence
in order to benefit from insights into hybrid threats that have been gained from cyber
defence, strategic communication, civilian military cooperation, energy and crisis
Action 4: Member States are invited to consider establishing a Centre of Excellence for
‘countering hybrid threats’.
ORGANISING THE EU RESPONSE: BUILDING RESILIENCE
Resilience is the capacity to withstand stress and recover, strengthened from challenges.
To effectively counter hybrid threats, the potential vulnerabilities of key infrastructures,
supply chains and society must be addressed. By drawing on the EU instruments and
policies, infrastructure at the EU level can become more resilient.
13 NATO Centres of Excellence.
14 E.g. EU Institute for Security Studies (EU ISS), thematic EU Centres of Excellence on CBRN issues.
Protecting critical infrastructure
It is important to protect critical infrastructures (e.g. energy supply chains, transport),
since an unconventional attack by perpetrators of hybrid threats on any 'soft target' could
lead to serious economic or societal disruption. To ensure protection of critical
infrastructure, the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection16 (EPCIP)
provides an all-hazard cross-sectoral systems approach, looking at interdependencies,
based on the implementation of activities under the prevention, preparedness and
response work streams. The Directive on European Critical Infrastructures17 establishes a
procedure for identifying and designating European Critical Infrastructures (ECI) and a
common approach for assessing the need to improve their protection. In particular, work
should be re-launched under the Directive to reinforce the resilience of critical
infrastructures relating to transport (e.g. EU's main airports and merchant ports). The
Commission will assess whether to develop common tools, including indicators, for
improving resilience of critical infrastructure against hybrid threats in all relevant sectors.
Action 5: The Commission, in cooperation with Member States and stakeholders, will
identify common tools, including indicators, with a view to improve protection and
resilience of critical infrastructure against hybrid threats in relevant sectors.
4.1.1. Energy Networks
Undisturbed production and distribution of power is of vital importance to the EU and
significant power failures could be damaging. An essential element for countering hybrid
threats is to further diversify EU's energy sources, suppliers and routes, in order to
provide more secure and resilient energy supplies. The Commission is also carrying out
risk and safety assessments ("stress tests") on EU power plants. To ensure energy
diversification, work in the context of the Energy Union Strategy is being intensified: for
example, the Southern Gas Corridor can enable gas from the Caspian region to reach
Europe and in Northern Europe the establishment of liquid gas hubs with multiple
suppliers. This example should be followed in Central and Eastern Europe and in the
Mediterranean, where a gas hub is under development.18 The developing market for
liquefied natural gas will also contribute positively to this objective.
Concerning nuclear material and facilities, the Commission supports the development
and adoption of the highest standards in safety thereby reinforcing resilience. The
Commission is encouraging consistent transposition and implementation of the Nuclear
Safety Directive19 that sets rules on prevention of accidents and mitigation of accident
16 Communication from the Commission on a European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection,
12.12.2006, COM(2006) 786 final.
17 Council Directive 2008/114/EC of 8 December 2008 on the identification and designation of European
critical infrastructures and the assessment of the need to improve their protection, OJ L 345 of 23.12.2008.
18 On the progress achieved so far, see the State of the Energy Union 2015 (COM(2015) 572 final.
19 Council Directive 2009/71/Euratom of 25 June 2009 establishing a Community framework for the
nuclear safety of nuclear installations, as amended by Council Directive 2014/87/Euratom of 8 July 2014.
consequences and of the provisions of the Basic Safety Standards Directive20 on
international cooperation on emergency preparedness and response, particularly between
neighbouring Member States and with neighbouring countries.
Action 6: The Commission, in cooperation with Member States, will support efforts to
diversify energy sources and promote safety and security standards to increase
resilience of nuclear infrastructures
4.1.2 Transport and supply chain security
Transport is essential for the functioning of the Union. Hybrid attacks on transport
infrastructure (such as airports, road infrastructures, ports and railways) can have serious
consequences, leading to disruptions to travel and supply chains. In implementing
aviation and maritime security legislation21, the Commission carries out regular
inspections22 and, through its work on land transport security, aims to address emerging
hybrid threats. In this context, an EU framework is being discussed under the revised
Aviation Safety Regulation23, as part of the Aviation Strategy for Europe24. Furthermore,
threats to maritime security are being addressed in the European Union Maritime
Security Strategy and its Action Plan25. The latter enables the EU and its Member States
to comprehensively tackle maritime security challenges, including countering hybrid
threats, through cross-sectoral cooperation between civilian and military actors to protect
maritime critical infrastructure, the global supply chain, maritime trade and maritime
natural and energy resources. The security of the international supply chain is also
addressed in the European Union Customs Risk Management Strategy and Action Plan26.
20 Council Directive 2013/59/Euratom of 5 December 2013 laying down basic safety standards for the
protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation and repealing Directives
89/618/Euratom, 90/641/Euratom, 96/29/Euratom, 97/43/Euratom and 2003/122/Euratom.
21 Regulation (EC) No 300/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2008 on
common rules in the field of civil aviation security and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2320/2002;
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 2015/1998 of 5 November 2015 laying down detailed
measures for the implementation of the common basic standards on aviation security; Directive
2005/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on enhancing port security; Regulation (EC) No 725/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on
enhancing ship and port facility security.
22 Under EU law, the Commission is required to carry out inspections to ensure Member States' correct
implementation of aviation and maritime security requirements. This includes inspections of the
appropriate authority in the Member State, as well as inspections at airports, ports, air carriers, ships and
entities implementing security measures. The Commission inspections aim to ensure that EU standards are
fully implemented by Member States.
23 Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/4 of 5 January 2016 amending Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of the
European Parliament and of the Council as regards essential requirements for environmental protection;
Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of 20/02/2008 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing
a European Aviation Safety Agency.
24 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic
and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: An Aviation Strategy for Europe,
COM/2015/0598 final, 7.12.2015
25 In December 2014, the Council adopted an Action Plan to implement the European Union Maritime
26 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European
Economic and Social Committee on the EU Strategy and Action Plan for customs risk management:
Tackling risks, strengthening supply chain security and facilitating trade, COM (2014) 527 final.
Action 7: The Commission will monitor emerging threats across the transport sector
and will update legislation where appropriate. In implementing the EU Maritime
Security Strategy and the EU Customs Risk Management Strategy and Action Plan,
the Commission and the High Representative (within their respective compentences),
in coordination with Member States, will examine how to respond to hybrid threats, in
particular those concerning transport critical infrastructure.
Hybrid threats could target space infrastructures with multi-sectoral consequences. The
EU has designed the Space Surveillance and Tracking support Framework27 to network
such assets owned by Member States in order to deliver Space Surveillance and Tracking
services28 to identified users (Member States, EU institutions, spacecraft owners and
operators and civil protection authorities). In the context of the upcoming Space Strategy
for Europe, the Commission will explore its further development, to monitor hybrid
threats to space infrastructures.
Satellite communications (SatComs) are key assets for crisis management, disaster
response, police, border and coastal surveillance. They are the backbone of large-scale
infrastructures, such as transport, space or remotely piloted aircraft systems. In line with
the European Council call to prepare the next generation of Governmental SatCom
(GovSatCom), the Commission, in cooperation with the European Defence Agency, is
assessing ways to pool demand, in the context of the upcoming Space Strategy and
European Defence Action Plan.
Many critical infrastructures rely on exact timing information to synchronise their
networks (e.g. energy and telecommunication) or timestamp transactions (e.g. financial
markets). The dependency on a single Global Navigation Satellite System time
synchronisation signal does not offer the resilience required to counter hybrid threats.
Galileo, the European global navigation satellite system, would offer a second reliable
Action 8: Within the context of the upcoming Space Strategy and European Defence
Action Plan, the Commission will propose to increase the resilience of space
infrastructure against hybrid threats, in particular, through a possible extension of the
Space Surveillance and Tracking scope to cover hybrid threats, the preparation for the
next generation of GovSatCom at European level and the introduction of Galileo in
critical infrastructures dependant on time synchronisation.
27 See Decision 541/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council.
28 Such as in-orbit collision avoidance warning, alerts regarding breakup or collision and risky re-entries of
space objects into the Earth's atmosphere.
Defence capabilities need to be strengthened in order to enhance the EU's resilience to
hybrid threats. It is important to identify the relevant key capability areas, e.g.
surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The European Defence Agency could be a
catalyst for a military capability development (for example, by shortening defence
capability development cycles, investing in technology, systems and prototypes, opening
defence business to innovative commercial technologies) related to hybrid threats,.
Possible actions could be examined under the upcoming European Defence Action Plan.
Action 9: The High Representative, supported as appropriate by Member States, in
liaison with the Commission, will propose projects on how to adapt defence capabilities
and development of EU relevance, specifically to counter hybrid threats against a
Member State or several Member States.
Protecting public health and food security
The population's health could be jeopardised by the manipulation of communicable
diseases or the contamination of food, soil, air and drinking water by chemical,
biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents. In addition, the intentional spreading
of animal or plant diseases may seriously affect the food security of the Union and have
major economic and social effects on crucial areas of the EU food chain. Existing EU
structures for health security, environmental protection and for food safety can be used to
respond to hybrid threats using these methods.
Under EU law on cross-border health threats29, existing mechanisms coordinate
preparedness for serious cross-border threats to health, linking Member States, EU
agencies and Scientific Committees30 through the Early Warning and Response System.
The Health Security Committee, which coordinates Member States' response to threats,
may act as a focal point on vulnerabilities in public health,31 to enshrine hybrid threats (in
particular bioterrorism) in crisis communication guidelines and in (crisis simulation)
capacity-building exercises with Member States. In the area of food safety, through the
Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and the Common Risk Management
System (CRMS) for customs, competent authorities exchange risk analysis information
in order to monitor health risks posed by contaminated food. For animal and plant health,
the review of the EU legal framework32 will add new elements to the existing “toolbox”
33, to be better prepared also for hybrid threats.
29 Decision No 1082/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 on
serious cross-border threats to health and repealing Decision No 2119/98/EC, OJ L 293/1, 05.11.2013.
30 Commission Decision C(2015) 5383 of 7.8.2015 on establishment of Scientific Committees in the field
of public health, consumer safety and the environment.
31 in line with Decision 1082/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013
on serious cross-border threats to health and repealing Decision No 2119/98/EC, OJ L 293/1.
32 Regulation 2016/429 of the European Parliament and of the Council on transmissible animal diseases
and amending and repealing certain acts in the area of animal health ("Animal Health Law"), OJ L84),
31/3/2016. Concerning the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on Protective
Action 10: The Commission, in cooperation with Member States, will improve awareness
of and resilience to hybrid threats within existing preparedness and coordination
mechanisms, notably the Health Security Committee.
The EU greatly benefits from its interconnected and digitised society. Cyberattacks could
disrupt digital services across the EU and such attacks could be used by perpetrators of
hybrid threats. Improving the resilience of communication and information systems in
Europe is important to support the Digital Single Market. The EU Cybersecurity Strategy
and the European Agenda on Security provide the overall strategic framework for EU
initiatives on cybersecurity and cybercrime. The EU has been active in developing
awareness, cooperation mechanisms and responses under the Cybersecurity Strategy
deliverables. In particular, the proposed Network and Information Security (NIS)
Directive34, addresses cybersecurity risks for a broad range of essential service providers
in the fields of energy, transport, finance and health. These providers, as well as
providers of key digital services (e.g. cloud computing) should take appropriate security
measures and report serious incidents to national authorities, noting any hybrid
characteristics. When adopted by the co-legislators, the effective transposition and
implementation of the Directive would foster cybersecurity capabilities across Member
States, reinforcing their cooperation on cybersecurity through information exchange and
best practices on countering hybrid threats. In particular, the Directive provides for the
establishment of a network of 28 national CSIRTs (Computer Security Incidents
Response Teams) and CERT-EU35 to pursue operational cooperation on a voluntary
To encourage public-private cooperation and EU-wide approaches to cybersecurity, the
Commission established the NIS Platform, which issues best practice guidance on risk
management. While Member States determine security requirements and modalities to
notify national incidents, the Commission encourages a high degree of convergence in
risk management approaches, drawing in particular on the European Union Network and
Information Security Agency (ENISA).
Action 11: The Commission encourages Member States as a matter of priority to
establish and fully utilise a network between the 28 CSIRTs and the CERT-EU as well
as a framework for strategic cooperation. The Commission, in coordination with
Member States, should ensure that sectorial initiatives on cyber threats (e.g. aviation,
measures against pests (“Plant Health Law”), a political agreement on the text has been reached by the
European Parliament and the Council on 16 December 2015.
33 E.g. EU vaccine banks, sophisticated electronic animal disease information system, increased obligation
for measures by labs and other entities dealing with pathogens.
34 Commission proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning
measures to ensure a high common level of network and information security across the Union
COM(2013) 48 final - 7/2/2013. Political agreement has been reached by the Council of the EU and the
European Parliament on this proposed Directive and the Directive should be formally adopted soon.
35 Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-EU) for the EU institutions.
energy, maritime) are consistent with cross-sectorial capabilities covered by the NIS
Directive to pool information, expertise and rapid responses.
Increased reliance on cloud computing and big data has increased vulnerability to hybrid
threats. The Digital Single Market Strategy provides for a contractual Public-Private
Partnership on cybersecurity36, which will focus on research and innovation and will help
the Union to retain a high degree of technological capacity in this area. The contractual
Public-Private Partnership will build trust among different market players and develop
synergies between the demand and supply side. While the contractual Public-Private
Partnership and accompanying measures will primarily focus on civilian cybersecurity
products and services, the outcome of these initiatives should allow technology users to
be better protected also against hybrid threats.
Action 12: The Commission, in coordination with Member States, will work together
with industry within the context of a contractual Public Private Partnership for
cybersecurity, to develop and test technologies to better protect users and
infrastructures against cyber aspects of hybrid threats.
The emergence of smart homes and appliances and the development of the smart grid,
increasing digitalisation of the energy system also results in an increased vulnerability to
cyberattacks. The European Energy Security Strategy37 and the Energy Union Strategy38
support an all-hazard approach, in which resilience to hybrid threats is integrated. The
Thematic Network on Critical Energy Infrastructure Protection fosters collaboration
among operators in the energy sector (oil, gas, electricity). The Commission launched a
web-based platform to analyse and share information on threats and incidents.39 It is also
developing, together with stakeholders40, a comprehensive energy-sector strategy on
cybersecurity in smart grid operations to reduce vulnerabilities. Whilst electricity markets
are increasingly integrated, rules and procedures for how to deal with crisis situations are
still national. We need to ensure that governments co-operate with each other in
preparing for and preventing and mitigating risks and that all relevant players act on the
basis of a common set of rules.
Action 13: The Commission will issue guidance to smart grid asset owners to improve
cybersecurity of their installations. In the context of the electricity market design
initiative, the Commission will consider proposing 'risk preparedness plans' and
36 To be launched in mid-2016.
37 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: European Energy
Security Strategy - COM/2014/0330 final.
38 Communication on 'A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking
Climate Change Policy - COM/2015/080 final.
39 Incident and Threat Information Sharing EU Centre – ITIS.
40 In the form of the Energy Expert CyberSecurity Platform (EECSP).
procedural rules for sharing information and ensuring solidarity across Member
States in times of crisis, including rules on how to prevent and mitigate cyber-attacks.
4.4.3. Ensuring sound financial systems
The EU's economy needs a secure financial and payment system to function. Protecting
the financial system and its infrastructure from cyber-attacks, irrespective of the motive
or nature of the attacker, is essential. To deal with hybrid threats against EU financial
services the industry needs to understand the threat, to have tested its defences and to
have the necessary technology to protect the industry from attack. Accordingly, sharing
information on threats among financial market participants and with relevant authorities
and key service providers or customers is crucial but needs also to be secure and meet
data protection requirements. In line with work in international fora, including the G7's
work in this sector, the Commission will seek to identify factors that hinder the
appropriate sharing of information on threats and propose solutions. It is important to
ensure regular testing and refinement of protocols to protect business and relevant
infrastructures, including continuous upgrading of security enhancing technologies. Action 14: The Commission, in cooperation with ENISA41, Member States, relevant
international, European and national authorities and financial institutions, will
promote and facilitate threat information-sharing platforms and networks and address
factors that hinder the exchange of such information.
Modern transport systems (rail, road, air, maritime) rely on information systems that are
vulnerable cyber-attacks. Given the cross-border dimension, there is a particular role for
the EU to play. The Commission, in coordination with Member States, will continue
analysing cyber-threats and risks related to unlawful interferences with transport systems.
The Commission is developing a Roadmap on cybersecurity for aviation in cooperation
with the European Aviation safety Agency (EASA) 42
. Cyber threats to maritime security
are also addressed in the European Union Maritime Security Strategy and its Action Plan
Action 15: The Commission and the High Representative (within their respective areas
of competence), in coordination with Member States, will examine how to respond to
hybrid threats, in particular those concerning cyber-attacks across the transport sector.
41 European Union Network and Information Security Agency
42 The new EASA regulation is currently under discussion between the European Parliament and the
Council following the Commission's proposal on December 2015. Proposal for a regulation of the
European Parliament and of the Council on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing
a European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of the
European Parliament and of the Council- COM(2015) 613 final, 2015/0277 (COD).
Targeting hybrid threat financing
Perpetrators of hybrid threats need financing to maintain their activities. Financing can be
used to support terrorist groups or more subtle forms of destabilisation, such as
supporting pressure groups and fringe political parties. The EU stepped up efforts against
crime and terrorist financing, as set out in the European Agenda on Security, in particular
with the Action Plan.43 In this context, namely, the revised European anti-money
laundering framework reinforces the fight against terrorist financing and money
laundering, facilitates the work of national Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) to identify
and follow suspicious money transfers and information exchanges, while ensuring
traceability of funds transfers in the European Union. It could therefore also contribute to
countering hybrid threats. In the context of CFSP instruments, tailored and effective
restrictive measures could be explored to counter hybrid threats.
Action 16: The Commission will use the implementation of the Action Plan on
Terrorist Financing to also contribute to countering hybrid threats.
Building resilience against radicalisation and violent extremism
Although terrorist acts and violent extremism are not per se
of a hybrid nature,
perpetrators of hybrid threats can target and recruit vulnerable members of society,
radicalising them through modern channels of communication (including internet social
media and proxy groups) and propaganda.
In order to tackle extremist content on the Internet, the Commission is – within the
context of the Digital Single Market strategy – analysing the need for potential new
measures, with due regard for their impact on the fundamental rights of freedom of
expression and information. This could include rigorous procedures for removing illegal
content, while avoiding the take down of legal content ('notice and action') and greater
responsibility and due diligence by intermediaries in the management of their networks
and systems. This would complement the existing voluntary approach, where internet and
social media companies (in particular under the umbrella of the EU Internet Forum)
in cooperation with Europol's EU Internet Referral Unit, swiftly remove terrorist
Within the context of the European Security Agenda, radicalisation is being countered by
exchanging experiences and developing best practices, including cooperation in third
countries. The Syria Strategic Communication Advisory Team aims to reinforce the
development and dissemination of alternative messages to counter terrorist propaganda.
The Radicalisation Awareness Network supports Member States and practitioners, who
need to interact with radicalised individuals (including foreign terrorist fighters) or with
those deemed vulnerable to radicalisation. The Radicalisation Awareness Network
provides training activities and advice and will offer support to priority third countries,
where there is willingness to engage. In addition, the Commission is fostering judicial
43 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on an Action Plan for
strengthening the fight against terrorist financing - (COM(2016) 50 final)
cooperation between criminal justice actors, including Eurojust, to counter terrorism and
radicalisation across Member States, including handling foreign terrorist fighters and
Complementing the above approaches in its external action
, the EU contributes to
countering violent extremism, including through external engagement and outreach,
prevention (countering radicalisation and terrorist financing), as well as through
measures to address underlying economic, political and societal factors that provide
opportunities for terrorist groups to flourish.
Action 17: The Commission is implementing the actions against radicalisation set out
in the European Agenda on Security and is analysing the need to reinforce procedures
for removing illegal content, calling on intermediaries' due diligence in managing
networks and systems.
Increasing cooperation with third countries
As underlined in the European Agenda on Security, the EU has increased its focus on
building capacities in partner countries
in the security sector, inter alia,
by building on
the nexus between security and development and developing the security dimension of
the revised European Neighbourhood Policy44. These actions can also promote partners'
resilience to hybrid activities.
The Commission intends to further intensify the exchange of operational and strategic
information with enlargement countries and within the Eastern Partnership and Southern
Neighbourhood as appropriate to help combat organised crime, terrorism, irregular
migration and trafficking of small arms. On counter-terrorism, the EU is stepping up
cooperation with third countries by establishing upgraded security dialogues and Action
EU external financing instruments aim at building functioning and accountable
institutions in third countries45 which are a prerequisite for responding effectively to
security threats and for enhancing resilience. In this context, security sector reform and
capacity building in support of security and development46 are key tools. Under the
Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace47, the Commission has developed actions
to enhance cyber-resilience and partners' abilities to detect and respond to cyber-attacks
44 Joint Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European economic and social
Committee and the Committee of the regions, Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, 18.11.2015,
JOIN(2015) 50 final.
45 Idem; Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European
Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, EU Enlargement Strategy,
10.11.2015, COM(2015) 611 final; Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the
Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Increasing the
impact of EU Development Policy: an Agenda for Change, 13.10.2011, COM(2011) 637 final.
46 Joint Communication 'Capacity-building in support of security and development-enabling partners to
prevent and manage crises (JOIN(2015)17final).
47 Regulation (EU) No 230/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014
establishing an instrument contributing to stability and peace, OJ L 77/1, 15.3.2014.
and cybercrime, which can counter hybrid threats in third countries. The EU is funding
capacity building activities in partner countries to mitigate security risks linked to CBRN
Finally, in the spirit of the comprehensive approach to crisis management, Member
States could deploy Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) tools and missions,
independently or to complement deployed EU instruments, in order to assist partners in
enhancing their capacities. The following actions could be considered: (i) support for
strategic communication, (ii) advisory support for key ministries exposed to hybrid
threats; (iii) additional support for border management in case of emergency. Further
synergies could be explored between CSDP instruments and security, customs and justice
actors, including the relevant EU agencies49, INTERPOL and the European Gendarmerie
Force, in accordance with their mandates.
Action 18: The High Representative, in coordination with the Commission, will launch
a hybrid risk survey in neighbourhood regions.
The High Representative, the Commission and Member States will use the instruments
at their respective disposal to build partners' capacities and strengthen their resilience
to hybrid threats. CSDP missions could be deployed, independently or to complement
EU instruments, to assist partners in enhancing their capacities.
PREVENTING, RESPONDING TO CRISIS AND RECOVERING
As outlined in Section 3.1, the proposed EU Hybrid Fusion Cell aims to analyse relevant
indicators to prevent and respond to hybrid threats and inform EU decision-makers.
While liabilities can be mitigated through long term policies at national and EU level, in
the short term it remains essential to strengthen the ability of Member States and the
Union to prevent, respond and recover from hybrid threats in a swift and coordinated
A rapid response to events triggered by hybrid threats is essential. In this respect, the
facilitation of national civil protection actions and capacities by the European Emergency
Response Coordination Centre50 could be an effective response mechanism for aspects of
hybrid threats requiring a civil protection response. This could be achieved in
coordination with other EU response mechanisms and early warning systems, in
particular with the EEAS Situation Room on external security dimensions and the
Strategic Analysis and Response centre on internal security.
The solidarity clause (Article 222 of the TFEU) allows for Union action, as well as action
between Member States, if a Member State is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim
48 Areas covered include border monitoring, crisis management, first response, illicit trafficking export
control of dual-use items, disease surveillance and control, nuclear forensics, post incident recovery and
protection of high-risk facilities. Best practices derived from tools developed within the EU CBRN Action
Plan, such as the European nuclear security training centre and the EU's participation in International
Border Monitoring Working Group, can be shared with third countries.
49 EUROPOL, FRONTEX, CEPOL, EUROJUST
of a natural or man-made disaster. Action by the Union to assist the Member State is
implemented by applying Council Decision 2014/415/EU.51 Arrangements for
coordination within the Council should rely on the EU Integrated Political Crisis
Response.52 Under these arrangements, the Commission and the High Representative (in
their respective areas of competence), identify relevant Union instruments and submits
proposals to the Council for decisions on exceptional measures.
Article 222 TFEU also addresses situations that involve direct assistance by one or
several Member States to a Member State that has experienced a terrorist attack or
disaster. In this respect, Council Decision 2014/415/EU does not apply. Given the
ambiguity associated with hybrid activities, the possible last resort applicability of the
Solidarity Clause should be assessed by the Commission and the High Representative (in
their respective areas of competence), in case an EU Member State is subject to
significant hybrid threats.
By contrast to Article 222 TFEU, if multiple serious hybrid threats constitute armed
aggression against an EU Member State, Article 42 (7) TEU could be invoked to provide
an appropriate and timely response. A wide-ranging and serious manifestation of hybrid
threats may also require increased cooperation and coordination with NATO.
When preparing their forces, Member States are encouraged to take potential hybrid
threats into account. To be prepared to take decisions swiftly and effectively in case of a
hybrid attack, Member States need to hold regular exercises, at working and political
level, to test national and multinational decision-making ability. The objective would be
to have a common operational protocol between Member States, the Commission and the
High Representative, outlining effective procedures to follow in case of a hybrid threat,
from the initial identification phase to the final phase of attack, and mapping the role of
each Union institution and actor in the process.
As an important component of the CSDP, engagement could provide (a) civilian and
military training, (b) mentoring and advisory missions to improve a threatened state’s
security and defence capacity, (c) contingency planning to identify signals of hybrid
threats and strengthen early warning capabilities, (d) support to border control
management, in case of emergency, (e) support in specialised areas, such as CBRN risk
mitigation and non-combatant evacuation. Action 19: The High Representative and the Commission, in coordination with the
Member States, will establish a common operational protocol and carry out regular
exercises to improve strategic decision-making capacity in response to complex hybrid
threats building on the Crisis Management and Integrated Political Crisis Response
51 Council Decision 2014/415/EU on the arrangements for the implementation by the Union of the
solidarity clause, OJ L 192, 1.7.2014, p. 53.
Action 20: The Commission and the High Representative, in their respective areas of
competence, will examine the applicability and practical implications of Articles 222
TFEU and Article 42(7) TEU in case a wide-ranging and serious hybrid attack occurs.
Action 21: The High Representative, in coordination with Member States, will
integrate, exploit and coordinate the capabilities of military action in countering
hybrid threats within the Common Security and Defence Policy.
INCREASING COOPERATION WITH NATO
Hybrid threats represent a challenge not only for the EU but also for other major partner
organisations including the United Nations (UN), the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and particularly NATO. An effective response calls for
dialogue and coordination both at political and operational level between organisations.
Closer interaction between the EU and NATO would make both organisations better able
to prepare and respond to hybrid threats effectively in a complementary and mutually
supporting manner based on the principle of inclusiveness, while respecting each
organisation’s decision-making autonomy and data protection rules.
The two organisations share values and face similar challenges. EU Member States and
NATO Allies alike expect their respective organisations to support them, acting swiftly,
decisively and in a coordinated manner in the event of a crisis, or ideally to prevent the
crisis from happening. A number of areas for closer EU–NATO cooperation and
coordination have been identified, including
situational awareness, strategic
communications cybersecurity and crisis prevention and response. The ongoing informal
EU–NATO dialogue on hybrid threats should be strengthened in order to synchronise the
two organisations’ activities in this area.
In order to develop complementary EU/NATO responses, it is important that both share
the same situational awareness picture before and during crisis. This could be done
through regular sharing of analyses and lessons identified, but also through direct liaison
between the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell and NATO’s hybrid cell. It is equally important to
build mutual awareness of each other's respective crisis management procedures to
ensure swift and effective reactions. Resilience could be enhanced by ensuring
complementarity in setting benchmarks for critical parts of their infrastructures, as well
as close collaboration in strategic communication and cyber defence. Fully inclusive joint
exercises both at political and technical levels would enhance the effectiveness of the two
organisations' respective decision-making capacity. Exploring further options in training
activities would help develop a comparable level of expertise in critical areas.
Action 22: The High Representative, in coordination with the Commission, will
continue informal dialogue and enhance cooperation and coordination with NATO on
situational awareness, strategic communications, cybersecurity and "crisis prevention
and response" to counter hybrid threats, respecting the principles of inclusiveness and
autonomy of each organisation's decision making process.
This Joint Communication outlines actions designed to help counter hybrid threats and
foster the resilience at the EU and national level, as well as partners. As the focus is on improving awareness
, it is proposed to establish dedicated mechanisms to exchange
information with Member States and to coordinate the EU’s capacity to deliver strategic
communications. Actions have been outlined to build resilience
in areas such as
cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, protecting the financial system from illicit use and
efforts to counter violent extremism and radicalisation. In each of these areas,
implementation of agreed strategies by the EU and the Member States, as well as
Member States’ full implementation of existing legislation will be a key first step, while
some more concrete actions have been put forward to further reinforce these efforts.
As regards preventing, responding to and recovering from hybrid threats
, it is
proposed to examine the feasibility of applying the Solidarity Clause Article 222 TFEU
(as specified in the relevant Decision) and Art. 42(7) TEU, in case a wide-ranging and
serious hybrid attack occurs. Strategic decision making capacity could be enhanced by
establishing a common operational protocol.
Finally, it is proposed to step up cooperation
and coordination between the EU and
in common efforts to counter hybrid threats.
In implementing this Joint Framework, the High Representative and the Commission are
committed in mobilising relevant EU instruments at their respective disposal. It is
important for the EU, together with the Member States, to work to reduce risks
associated with exposure to potential hybrid threats from state and non-state actors.