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Advancing the cyber resilience agenda with the Western Balkans partners

27 September 2022
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On 27 September, in partnership with the Permanent Representation of Estonia to the EU and the Permanent Representation of Romania to the EU, the EUISS and the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union co-organised an event to deepen the cyber resilience cooperation of the EU and the Western Balkans partners. In the context of rapid digitalisation and the exponential growth of cyber-attacks, it is clear that strengthening cyber resilience of the EU and the Western Balkans partners has become both an essential enabler of sustainable growth and an urgent precondition for the security of the whole European continent.

As part of promoting the EU’s vision on cyberspace, May 2022 Council Conclusions on Cyber Posture stressed the importance of making cyber issues an integral part of the Union accession negotiations and of the EU’s strategic and political dialogues with international partners. Recent EU-Western Balkans leaders’ meeting reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to improving the resilience of the Western Balkans partners to hybrid threats and in particular cyber-threats and disinformation. In this vein, a Cybersecurity Study on the Western Balkans was carried out by the e-Governance Academy in the first semester of 2022.

Despite growing geostrategic challenges, progress has been slow towards developing adequate regulatory frameworks, establishing new institutions and enhancing operational capacities to respond to cyber crises. Building collective resilience will require integrating cybersecurity into broader national and regional development strategies, and a sustained financial and operational commitment to building institutional, political, regulatory and technical capacity.

This event, attended by officials and representatives of the Western Balkans Region, as well as EU institutions, member states, and key partners and stakeholders, aimed to consider the current state of cooperation while advancing a concrete and action-oriented agenda that builds on the past engagements between the EU and partners in the Western Balkans.

While the partnership between the EU and the Western Balkans on Cyber has grown stronger in recent years, technical cooperation has not yet been leveraged into enhanced political cooperation. After a discussion on pressing challenges and the main findings of the study, participants put forth some mechanisms to address this, including the establishment of POCs, closer involvement of Western Balkans partners and agencies in EU-led practical exercises, threat assessment-sharing or expert exchange schemes, and pursuing closer cooperation and integration on legal and regulatory processes on Cybersecurity such as the NIS2.