EU schedules routine naval drills and patrols to safeguard vital maritime infrastructure

In light of recent geopolitical developments, particularly Russia’s military action against Ukraine, Brussels urged on Friday for coordinated EU naval exercises and patrols to protect vital marine infrastructure at sea.

The Commission’s proposed update to the 2014 EU Maritime Security Strategy calls for more activity at sea, including more coastguard operations and routine live maritime drills at the EU level.

Additionally, it would lead to increased security in EU ports, closer cooperation with NATO allies and other international partners to uphold the rules-based order at sea, and the designation of new maritime areas of interest that would be monitored by the Coordinated Maritime Presences, composed of naval and air assets from member states.

“Our seas are of strategic importance,” Commissioner Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius stated. Up to 99% of data flows through undersea cables, which carry 80% of all global trade.

The Commission claimed that since 2014, there had been an increase in security threats and difficulties, and that these “must also be dealt with with increased geopolitical competition, climate change and deterioration of the marine environment, and hybrid and cyber-attacks.”

A “forceful warning that the EU needs to reinforce its security and step up its power to act not just on its own territory and its own waters, but also in its neighborhood and beyond,” the statement read.

The update comes six months after a planned act of sabotage on the Nord Stream pipelines rendered them inoperable and spurred the EU to examine its critical infrastructure protection procedures, especially with regard to cross-border projects.

Additional examples of marine vital infrastructure may be ships, offshore wind farms, and LNG terminals. After Moscow ceased supplying natural gas as punishment for sanctions, EU member states have begun using LNG more and more.

Together with improved coastal and offshore patrol vessel surveillance, the updated maritime security strategy calls for increased secure information-sharing capabilities across member nations. The Commission urged the management of underwater mines and unexploded ordnance as well as the creation of universal standards for defense technologies, such as a new class of warships and enhanced anti-submarine capabilities.

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