COLOGNE, Germany – Due to a lack of secure video conferencing capabilities for the European Union, the German Defense Minister is wondering if NATO could share its sophisticated communications apparatus in times of Covid-19.
Both organizations have considerable footprints in Brussels, but apparently only the alliance is able to facilitate sensitive online discussions from their main building in the northeast of the city.
“I was wondering anyway why EU institutions don’t just go there,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer during an online discussion on December 11th, which was about reviewing Germany’s six-month term as President of the Council of the European Union. The alliance building, she added, “is big enough” and secure meetings connecting leaders from both sides of the Atlantic are the order of the day.
“If we – as it seems for the foreseeable future – still have to meet virtually, we have two options,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer. Either the European Union bureaucracy creates its own secure communications infrastructure in accordance with NATO standards, or in the spirit of neighborly relations in Brussels, block officials are given access to secure alliance lines, she added.
The latest surprise appearance by a Dutch journalist at an allegedly confidential online meeting of EU defense ministers has highlighted the need to keep confidential defense information secret, according to Kramp-Karrenbauer. On the agenda of the November meeting, one of the most sensitive issues on the bloc’s agenda was currently: developing a joint threat assessment, supported by all Member States.
It is far from certain that the Russian and Chinese governments are interested in listening on such matters.
However, lending NATO communication skills to EU companies may not be a particularly important requirement for improved cooperation between the two organizations. If “whatever sensitivities are in the way,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer, then the block would have to work together and build similar skills from scratch.
According to a NATO official, the provision of alliance systems for all EU members would have to be “carefully examined” as only 21 of the 30 NATO members are also members of the European Union.
“NATO operates secure IT networks that allow our 30 allies to share classified information,” the official told Defense News, adding that senior EU defense and security officials previously viewed NATO classified information over a secure video link to have.