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European Law Monitor newsEU strategy to protect critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks

A proposed EU-wide strategy to protect critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks (in fields such as energy, health, communication and transport), was backed by the Civil Liberties Committee on Wednesday. But MEPs stressed that responsibility for protecting critical infrastructure still rests primarily with Member States and private stakeholders.

A draft directive tabled by the Commission in 2006 would oblige Member States to identify and designate existing infrastructure as European Critical Infrastructure (ECI), according to sector-specific criteria established by national governments, the Commission and stakeholders. Once the list is ready, the directive would oblige owners and operators of the ECIs to establish an "operator security plan", with permanent and graduated security measures in the event of a terrorist attack.

Primarily a national responsibility

Parliament's consultation report, drafted by Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (ALDE, NL), agrees on the need to identify what national facilities can be designated "European Critical Infrastructure" and to assess their protection needs, but stresses that the primary and ultimate responsibility for protecting critical infrastructures lies with the Member States and the owners or operators. A Community approach can   be justified only if at least three Member States, or at least two Member States other than that in which the critical infrastructure is located, would be affected, MEPs said.

Avoid duplicating work

The EU should make every possible effort to avoid duplicating the work of Member States and adding unnecessary costs and administrative burdens for owners and operators, say MEPs. Future common risk assessments should always take into account existing methodologies in each country. Even when a given facility is designated as ECI, its compliance with existing protection measures might be enough to satisfy the requirement to establish and update an "operator security plan".
Finally, the Civil Liberties Committee agreed with the Commission that appropriate measures must be taken to protect sensitive and confidential information revealing the vulnerability of each piece of infrastructure.
An overall strategy to protect critical infrastructure was requested by the European Council in 2004, in the aftermath of the Madrid train bombings, with a view to preventing the potentially disastrous impact that damage to, or the loss of, infrastructure in any one Member State could have on the EU economy and public confidence as a whole.

Reproduced with the permission of the European Parliament REF.: 20070625IPR08240