As we turn the page on 2019, the new political cycle in the EU is kicking fully into gear. The von der Leyen Commission took office with gusto – presenting a New Green Deal and a Just Transition Fund within weeks of taking the reins.
We did so because we know we have no time to lose in responding to what Europeans have made crystal clear they see as a crucial societal issue. But it is not the only one. My work as Vice-President for promoting our European way of life will be to ensure that, against the backdrop of these big societal transformations towards a greener economy and a digital revolution in the way we work, we don’t lose sight of our values along the way. Because the European way is one that leaves no one behind.
This means making our welfare, education and healthcare systems more inclusive, protecting the diversity of our culture, and equipping our Union to better manage and reap the opportunities of migration. It also means making our societies more resilient to the ever-more sophisticated security threats that endanger them.
I want a Europe that delivers on its promise to protect its people at home and abroad with a genuine Security Union.
Excellent progress was made in the last five years to improve the exchange of information and close down the space in which terrorists and criminals operate. But the reality is that Europe’s approach to security remains fragmented across a host of different policy areas.
This Commission will therefore build a new security ecosystem. In the first half of this year, we will present a new Security Union Strategy. We will use this to set out the areas where the EU can bring added value to support Member States in ensuring security – in everything from combatting terrorism and organised crime, to preventing and detecting hybrid threats, to cybersecurity and increasing the resilience of our critical infrastructure.
In doing so we are saying loud and clear that security cannot and will not be an afterthought, but integrated by design.
Earlier this month, we presented a sound approach to fifth generation networks that is fit for our global age, but also genuinely European. 5G will be a ground-breaking technology but it cannot come at the expense of the security of our internal market. This is what Member States recognised when they agreed last March to follow an EU approach to 5G.
The Commission asked Member States to conduct thorough national risk assessments, which they did in record time. And when they did so it became clear that we are not just talking about an upgrade of existing networks but about brand new technology which will connect quite literally everything in our societies – hooking up sensors and cameras in ‘smart’ cities, homes and offices. With this ubiquity, security is an even more pressing need than in existing networks.
By the end of this year, the Commission will also present additional measures on critical infrastructure, and review EU rules on network security. Here as in many other areas, the EU will trace its own path and ensure our businesses and citizens are safe, so they can make full use of all the benefits of new technology – be it 5G or artificial intelligence.
Security is an area where countries have always struggled to trust each other. But the reality is that no country is capable of tackling these challenges alone. Enhanced cooperation between EU Member States as well as more and coordinated investments in the field of security are of paramount importance to address the very complex issues and to continue building the EU’s resilience against attacks of all natures.
As underlined by President von der Leyen, we can leave no stone unturned when it comes to protecting our citizens. Every person in our Union has the right to feel safe in their own streets and their own home.
More than this, the spate of terrorist attacks on European soil in recent years exposed starkly just what is we are fighting for – our Europeanway of life. And what I have seen of Europe in these dark moments isunwavering light: spontaneous memorials, defiant marches, flowers laid on cobblestones and words of love written on walls. This is the Europe we must protect.