LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
Please allow me welcome you at this conference which is dedicated to the challenges in the area of cybersecurity.
Bulgaria took over the rotational Presidency of the EU Council exactly at a time when cybersecurity is becoming crucial to the Union’s prosperity, growth and security, and to the functioning of our democracies, freedoms and values in the digital era.
Digital technology today is without frontiers and all traditional relations in the physical world are characterized by a digital dimension. Rapid development and innovation in the digital domain create economic opportunities and make our life easier. Companies endeavour to step up their digital transformation and adopt new trends and technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), big data and cloud computing in order to achieve higher productivity. The digitization of industries also brings about benefits to consumers by extending their choices of products and services, and by affording better access to information and content.
New technologies however come with new vulnerabilities, which put at risk our citizens, our economies and our national interests. Staying safe online is now as important as physical security offline. The risks are growing exponentially, and cybersecurity incidents are increasingly diversified. Disconcerting are the growing capabilities and tendencies of diverse actors to pursue their objectives by launching malignant operations in cyberspace, which can be of various scope, scale, duration, intensity, complexity, sophistication and impact. The number of attacks is also growing at an alarming rate.
In 2017, Internet users already accounted for 51 % of the world’s population and there were 8.4 billion internet-connected devices worldwide. This pace of growth means that cybercrime is likely to become the single largest threat in the world with a potential to inflict serious economic damage — various estimates point to more than USD 6 trillion in the next two years alone.
In this context, cybersecurity becomes an increasingly important concern with a specific economic, political and geopolitical dimension. A collective and coordinated approach is needed to develop enhanced resilience to cyber attacks and build efficient mechanisms for determent and response, and thereby ensure better protection to European citizens, businesses and institutions.
The single digital market means that Europe should function as a single cyberspace and as a single cybersecurity market, including in the area of security certification and common standards, operational capacity and cooperation, and collective response to major cyber incidents and crises. Thus, we should improve our national and common preparedness, our crisis management capabilities and reporting/analytical functions.
I would also like to mention education, the need for people to develop cyber hygiene habits and awareness at MS and EU level. Despite the growing threats, awareness and knowledge in the area of cybersecurity is still insufficient as 51% of European citizens consider that they are unaware of the cyber threats and 69% of all businesses lack basic knowledge of the cyber risk they are exposed to. Together with the start of Bulgaria’s Presidency of the EU Council, the State e-Government Agency launched a six-month national information education campaign for cyber hygiene under the patronage of Ms Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. The campaign will deliver various initiatives, both physical and online, in order to trigger a wide public debate. Cyber hygiene is key responsibility of each citizen and of each business or administrative organisation. We believe that similar initiatives will help people realise their own role and responsibility to protect their cyber assets and online identity. I am glad to report that the campaign enjoys wide response and that it is a joint effort of the Ministry of Information Technology, Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council, the Chief Directorate for Combating Organised Crime, the Digital National Coalition and Viber Media.
With a view to providing appropriate tools for responding to cyber attacks, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have proposed a wide range of measures to improve cybersecurity in the Union. These include the proposed regulation on ENISA – an EU Cybersecurity Agency tasked to support Member States’ response to cyber attacks, and the introduction of a new European framework for cybersecurity certification in the area of Information and Communication Technology to guarantee that products and services are safe to use. The Bulgarian Presidency works staunchly and endeavours to facilitate the discussions on the legislative proposal within the Council so that maximum progress can be achieved. We are convinced that the constructive dialogue will lead to prompt conclusion of the negotiations and to timely adoption of the act. We also invest efforts in building on the work done to date in the area of cybersecurity by pursuing all activities set out in the work programme of the Trio of Presidencies (Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria), in accordance with the Action Plan for the implementation of the conclusions of the EU Council of November 2017.
Finally, allow me to conclude that we are fully aware of the need to strengthen the trust of European citizens and enterprises in the digital space and in the digital world, and support all actions designed to improve resilience and maintain high cybersecurity standards across the EU.
Bulgaria had good reasons to choose the motto ‘United We Stand Strong’ for its first Presidency of the EU. This motto features on the building of the National Parliament and on the Coat of Arms of the Republic of Bulgaria. But there is another reason as well – since the very start of the European project its main objective has been to remove divisions and to unite a fractured continent around the century-old dreams of its people: peace, freedom, democracy, prosperity, and justice.
Risks and threats in cyberspace are common to all Member States, meaning that there is a need for collective vision and enhanced cooperation among Member States and EU institutions in order to strengthen operational capacity in the area of cybersecurity at European level. This conference brings together representatives of all those institutions, structures, contact units, and computer incident response teams set up in accordance with the Network and IT Security Directive, which are part of the crisis management function. I am convinced therefore that the contributions they will share with us today will lay one more brick in the building of a stronger and more secure Europe.
Thank you for your attention!