Junior Ambassadors Program 2017 - Vytautas Jankauskas

Strengthening EU foreign and security policy through hard and soft power

by Vytautas Jankauskas


A rapidly growing threat that makes the EU extremely vulnerable are challenges in cyber security. The scope of possible damage lies beyond what we know based on classical conceptions of war. Cyber-attacks may degrade the EU's economic competitiveness, disrupt the daily lives of millions of European citizens, or even lead to the disablement of the Member States' military capability to act. Although the EU encourages all Member States to enhance their national cyber security capabilities, there is a lack of coordinated action at the supranational level.


Against this backdrop, the EU should create a Joint Cyber Defence Unit, whose tasks would include not only strengthening the EU's defensive and cyber-space surveillance capabilities, but also supporting Member States and the European private sector by taking defensive action in the event of cyber-attacks as seen in Estonia in 2007, in Paris in 2011, or in Germany in 2015. Based on threat analysis, incident watch, intervention recommendations, and cyber deception strategies, the Unit would help national governments and major private actors to protect their servers and critical infrastructures as well as to recover and learn lessons for future incidents.


Instead of merely relying on NATO support, the EU should also develop its own defensive structures and cooperate, where appropriate. A Joint Cyber Defence Unit could help unify national cyber policies and thus enhance cross-border preparedness for a transnational threat. By bringing together top-level experts from across the Union, it could help pool urgently needed expertise and enable more efficient crisis management.


Furthermore, in order to enhance the EU's role at the global level, its huge soft power potential should be used more actively. Currently, the assets of soft power are being attributed to single states (e.g., Germany or Sweden) rather than to the EU as a single entity. Comparable to such renowned cultural institutions like Germany's 'Goethe-Institut' or France's 'Alliance Française', the EU could also create its own cultural association, for example, an Institute of The Founding Fathers of the EU. The Institute would operate worldwide in order to promote European values at a time when the liberal order and the values it represents are under severe threat. Additionally, further EU-wide study programs with semesters in universities of different Member States could be developed and exchange projects like Erasmus opened to non-European countries.  


Shaping the EU as an attractive player abroad might then also facilitate the resurgence of pro-EU sentiment back home and would reinforce the vision of a strong European Union that is much more than merely a trading block.