The European Union (EU) has unveiled plans to hold joint naval exercises and improve efforts to protect critical maritime infrastructure, in response to heightened concerns about threats to Europe’s offshore energy and data cables. In September 2022, the Nord Stream pipelines were attacked, causing natural gas to spill into the Baltic Sea, which increased concerns regarding the safety and security of Europe’s maritime infrastructure. The EU has updated its maritime security strategy, outlining plans to hold an annual naval exercise from 2024 and coordinate member countries’ national efforts to protect gas pipelines, undersea data cables, offshore wind farms, and other critical maritime infrastructure.
According to EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius, planning for the strategy was underway before the Nord Stream blasts, but it has been strengthened in response to the attacks. The EU’s plan aims to increase cooperation between the EU and NATO, expand coastal patrols, and improve early threat detection by using EU satellite programs to detect unidentified vessels. The EU will also produce a risk assessment, disaster recovery plans, and regional surveillance plans, according to the strategy.
The EU’s focus on energy infrastructure is a particular concern, as Europe expands its offshore wind farms and its use of liquefied natural gas terminals to replace Russian pipeline gas. The Netherlands recently stated that a Russian ship detected at an offshore wind farm in the North Sea was part of an attempt by Moscow to gain intelligence to sabotage infrastructure. Improved surveillance of maritime areas will also aid countries in monitoring and responding to environmental degradation and the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise.
Authorities in Sweden, Germany, and Denmark are investigating the Nord Stream pipeline blasts, which were constructed to supply Russian gas to Europe. While the explosions were deliberate, no suspects have been identified yet. With the new EU maritime security strategy, it is hoped that better protection and early detection measures will help prevent future attacks and ensure the safety and security of Europe’s critical maritime infrastructure.
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