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Vice President Schinas and Commissioner Johansson to participate in informal videoconference of Home Affairs Ministers

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Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas, and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, will take part in the informal videoconference of Home Affairs Ministers today (14 December). The meeting will start with an update by the German Presidency of the Council on the negotiations on the proposal for a Regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online, where a political agreement between the European Parliament and the Council was found yesterday. Ministers will then discuss conclusions on internal security and on the European police partnership, against the background of the Commission's Counter-Terrorism Agenda and the proposal for reinforced mandate for Europol which were presented on Wednesday.

Finally, participants will take stock of the ongoing work towards making information systems for external border management interoperable. In the afternoon, Ministers will discuss the Pact on Migration and Asylum, proposed by the Commission on 23 September, including a discussion on the EU engagement with partner countries on effective readmission and migration management. The incoming Portuguese Presidency will present its work programme.  A press conference with Commissioner Johansson will take place at +/- 17.15h CET, which you can follow live on EbS.

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Defence

Essential infrastructure: New rules to boost co-operation and resilience

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Civil Liberties Committee MEPs endorse new rules to better protect essential services like energy, transport and drinking water.

With 57 votes in favour and six against (no abstentions), the Committee adopted its negotiation position on new rules on EU critical infrastructure entities. MEPs are aiming to better protect essential services (e.g. energy, transport, banking, drinking water and digital infrastructure) by improving member state resilience strategies and risk assessments.

Climate change is included as a potential source of disruption of essential infrastructure, and cyber-security is seen as an important aspect of resilience. As services are increasingly interdependent, the reformed directive requires local authorities to set up a single point of contact responsible for communicating with other jurisdictions. It also creates a new Critical Entities Resilience Group to facilitate communication between stakeholders, with Parliament participating as an observer.

MEPs push for broader scope, more transparency

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MEPs want to see more transparency when disruptions happen, requiring critical entities to inform the general public about incidents or serious risks. They also want to make sure that member states can provide financial support to critical entities, where this is in the public interest, without prejudice to state aid rules.

The Civil Liberties Committee proposes to widen the definition of essential services, so that protecting the environment, public health and safety, and the rule of law are also mentioned.

To make cross-border co-operation frictionless, MEPs finally want service providers to be considered “of European significance” if they offer similar services in at least three member states.

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After the vote, rapporteur Michal Šimečka (Renew, SK) said: "Critical entities provide essential services across the EU, while facing a growing number of both man-made and natural threats. Our ambition is to strengthen their ability to cope with risks to their operations while improving the functioning of the internal market in essential services. We are expected to deliver on a Europe that protects and that means also bolstering the collective resilience of the critical systems underpinning our way of life."

Background

The European Critical Infrastructure (ECI) directive currently covers only two sectors (transport and energy), whereas the reformed directive would expand this to ten (energy, transport, banking, financial market infrastructures, health, drinking water, waste water, digital infrastructure, public administration and space). At the same time, the new directive introduces an all-hazard risk approach, where the ECI was largely focused on terrorism.

Next steps

Before negotiations with the Council can start, the draft negotiating position will need to be endorsed by the whole house in a future session.

Further information 

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Cyber Security

Why cybersecurity in the EU should matter to you

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From stolen data to blocked hospital systems: cyberattacks can have perilous consequences. Learn more about cybersecurity and its importance, Society.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the economy and society, creating opportunities as well as challenges. By 2030, 125 billion devices could be connected to the internet, up from 27 billion in 2021 while 90% of people over six are expected to be online. As cyberspace is by design interconnected and digital and physical are increasingly intertwined, new dangers emerge.

Definitions

  • Cyberattacks are attempts to misuse information, by stealing, destroying or exposing it and they aim to disrupt or destroy computer systems and networks
  • Cybersecurity includes information and communication security, operational technology and the IT platforms required to ensure the safety of digital systems
  • Cyberdefence includes cybersecurity and threat analyses and strategies to protect against threats directed at citizens, institutions and governments

Cyber threats in the EU: personal and societal costs

The use of digital solutions has long been on the rise and teleworking, online shopping and keeping in touch online rose sharply during lockdown. These solutions can benefit consumers and support the economy and the post-Covid recovery. However, there has been a corresponding increase in malicious cyber activities.

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Attackers may use phishing websites and emails with malicious links and attachments to steal banking information or blackmail organizations after blocking their IT systems and data.

A secure cyberspace is the basis for the EU's digital single market: enabling solutions and unlocking its full potential by making people confident online. The 2019 Digital Economy and Society Index showed that security concerns limited or prevented 50% of EU internet users from performing online activities. The 2020 index indicated  that 39% of EU citizens who used the internet experienced security-related problems.

Learn more about how to protect yourself from cybercrime.

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The damage caused by cyberattacks goes beyond the economy and finance, affecting the very democratic foundations of the EU and threatening the basic functioning of society.

Essential services and critical sectors such as transport, energy, health and finance, have become increasingly dependent on digital technologies. This, together with the increase in physical objects connected to the Internet of things, can have direct consequences, including making cybersecurity a matter of life and death.

From cyberattacks on hospitals, causing them to postpone urgent medical procedures, to attacks on power grids and water supply - attackers are threatening the supply of essential services. And as cars and homes become increasingly connected, they could be threatened or exploited in unforeseen ways.

Cyberattacks, deployed with for example disinformation, economic pressure and conventional armed attacks, are testing the resilience of democratic states and institutions, directly targeting peace and security in the EU.

Cybersecurity in the EU

Businesses and organisations in the EU spend 41% less on cybersecurity than their US counterparts. The European Union has been working to strengthen cybersecurity to allow the EU to become a global cyber player. MEPs recently called for common EU cyber defence capabilities and are working to ensure a high common level of cybersecurity in the EU.

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Brussels

Brussels seminar to unite forces against sects and their supporters

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Recently, the F.C.C.E. held a special seminar in Brussels, where guests from legislative, religious and governmental backgrounds discussed the topics of respecting, protecting religious beliefs and exposing the dangers of sects, writes Laurent Jacques.

At the meeting, independent journalist Roland Delcourt who followed sects’ activities introduced a sect called "Almighty God" or "Eastern Lightning", clearly exposing fundamental differences between religions and sects.

F.C.C.E. special seminar in Brussels

Delcourt claimed that in order to grow and increase the number of their followers, the Church of Almighty God engages in dubious activities, discriminating and slandering other sects and different Christian religions.

Christian opponents and the international media have in turn described it as a sect and even as a "terrorist organization".

It seems pretty clear that this movement has nothing Christian other than its name.

The Vatican has rejected the sect which claims to be Christian. In April 2013, the Vatican news agency Agenzia Fides made the following remarks about it: "with its methods of abuse and blackmail against the heads of the Catholic Church, used to mount cleverly constructed scandals", The Church of Almighty God "sows confusion among evangelical and Catholic Christians".

Roland Delcourt also presented a report about “Bitter Winter” and its founder Massimo Introvigne, who has defended groups as diverse as the Unification Church "Moonies", the Church of Scientology, the Chinese Church Eastern Lightning (accused of links to the murder of Wu Shuoyanen in 2014), the Order of the Solar Temple (responsible for 74 deaths in mass murder-suicides), Aum Shinrikyo (responsible for the 1995 Tokyo sarin gas attack) and Shincheonji “Church of Jesus”, accused of having furthered the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea as a result of its follower’s unethical behaviour.

He believes that Bitter Winter and Massimo Introvigne find a favourable response only in ultra-conservative and far-right circles.

 Mr Introvigne is never the last when it comes to attacking those who propose means of combating the phenomenon of sects, such as Alain Gest, who chaired a Commission of Inquiry into Sects and whose observatory Guānchá Tái was created following the report made in 1995 by a parliamentary commission of inquiry on sects, chaired by and whose rapporteur is Jacques Guyard.

In his book: Une Secte au cœur de la République, Serge Faubert reveals to us, with supporting documents, the extent of the infiltration of sects in the political class, economic circles, national defence and the education.

In an article published on March 15, 2021 on Bitter Winter, Introvigne attacks Luigi Corvaglia, member of the board of directors and of the scientific committee of F.E.C.R.I.S. (European Federation of Research and Information Centers on Sectarianism), for claiming that Bitter Winter is the only source that claims the Church of Almighty God is being persecuted in China.

He also castigates Luigi Corvaglia for having organised, according to him, an anti-sect coalition in the company of Gerry Armstrong (former member of the Church of Scientology, persecuted by the sect), Alexander Dvorkin, vice-president of F.E.C.R.I.S. and Pastor Thomas Gandow (who was amoung the first to make the link between sects and the far-right), during a conference in Salekhard, Siberia.

Finally, Mr Delcourt quoted Bruno Fouchereau (author of: Mafia des Sectes) who wrote in Le Monde Diplomatique: “90% of sects are of American origin or based in the United States, and others like Almighty God are from Asia but are remotely controlled and mainly financed from the United States.“

At the meeting, Mr. André Lacroix, an independent writer who has been to Tibet many times and published several books, gave a special insight into how some Western media mislead the people and use untrue and false news to gain attention and achieve a certain kind of political Purpose. In particular, some organisations, under the banner of freedom of belief, are doing the work of helping sects, confuse the public, and create factors of instability for society.

Whether in Europe or other parts of the world, we should always be alert and mindful of the rise and threats to society of various sectarian organisations.

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