War 'Wake-Up Call' Spurs EU to Boost Cyber, Army Mobility

EU flags in front of EU headquarters in Brussels.
A worker on a lift adjusts the EU flags in front of EU headquarters in Brussels, June 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

BRUSSELS — The European Union on Thursday unveiled new proposals to help its armies move faster in times of conflict and to boost cyber security, saying that Russia’s war on Ukraine is a wake-up call to bolster Europe’s defenses.

“I think it’s a wake-up call for all of us. We must reinforce our ability to defend ourselves and also to defend our values,” European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager told reporters.

The proposals aim to identify gaps in European infrastructure — such as roads, bridges, rail lines, ports or airports incapable of handling heavy or large military equipment — for priority upgrades and to ensure guaranteed access to fuel supplies right across the continent.

They would also cut red tape by developing a joint electronic administration system to reduce the time that armed forces on the move might be caught up by border formalities or customs and tax rules. Currently, armies can face waits of at least five days to move military equipment across borders for war games and other maneuvers.

The EU and NATO routinely combine forces together for military exercises but also have rapidly deployable combat brigades for use during times of conflict. U.S. military officers have long warned of the administrative and physical barriers to moving forces around Europe.

To better ward off cyberattacks — civilian facilities ranging from hospitals to shipping companies have been by targeted by hackers in recent months — the EU should ramp up civilian and military cyber cooperation and improve exchanges between national and European level defense experts, the commission said.

Cyber security standards and certificate requirements should also be bolstered, and joint funding provided to help countries invest together in more modern cyber capabilities.

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