The European Commission issued the Recommendation on the Security and Resilience of Submarine Cable Infrastructures (Recommendation) on Wednesday, 21 February 2024. EU also published a White Paper - How to master Europe’s digital infrastructure needs on the same day.

The Recommendation presents a set of actions at national and EU level aimed at improving submarine cable security and resilience, through a better coordination across the EU, both in terms of governance and funding.

The future competitiveness of Europe's economy depends on these advanced digital network infrastructures and services, since fast, secure, and widespread connectivity is essential for the deployment of the technologies that will bring EU into tomorrow's world: telemedicine, automated driving, predictive maintenance of buildings, or precision agriculture.

These two documents aim to start a discussion on concrete proposals with stakeholders, Member States and like-minded partners on how to shape future EU policy action with a view to achieving a consensus.

In the White Paper, the EU Commission analyzes trends and challenges in Europe’s connectivity infrastructure, including technology challenges, investment and financial, lack of single market, need for security in the supply and in the operation of networks, etc.

The EU Commissions put forward three pillar measures to address such challenges and concerns. Pillar I, Creating a “Connected Collaborative Computing” Network (“3C Network”), aims to set up end-to-end integrated infrastructures and platforms for telco cloud and edge, which could be used to orchestrate the development of innovative technologies and AI applications for various use cases. Such collaborative approach could be prepared via the set-up of large-scale pilots or a possible new Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) in the computing continuum. Pillar II, Completing the Digital Single Market, aims to promote connectivity by putting in place a regulatory framework conducive to more investment in very high-capacity networks. Pillar III: Secure and resilient digital infrastructures for Europe, aims to secure digital infrastructure by using quantum and post-quantum technologies, and strengthening the security and resilience of submarine cable infrastructures.

The EU Commission reiterates that the security and resilience of the EU’s network and computing infrastructure is an essential element of Europe's digital autonomy. In particular, it is clear that the security of submarine cable infrastructures is a particularly pressing issue of EU sovereignty and poses a challenge to EU resilience.

The EU Commissions put forward further the Recommendation on the Security and Resilience of Submarine Cable Infrastructures (Recommendation). 

To protect Europe's network and computing infrastructure, an essential element of our economic security, the EU will incentivise the deployment and enhance the security and resilience of strategic submarine cable infrastructures. Building on the Recommendation adopted together with the White Paper, a joint EU governance system is considered in the longer term, together with a review of available instruments designed to better leverage private investments to support Cable Projects of European Interest (CPEIs).

As an immediate action responding to calls from Member States and stakeholders, the Recommendation seeks to improve coordination within the EU, for instance by assessing and mitigating security risks, establishing a Cable Security Toolbox, and streamlining procedures for permit granting. Moreover, to support the follow-up of the Recommendation, the EU Commission is setting up the Submarine Cable Infrastructure Expert Group, composed of Member States' authorities. In June 2023, the EU implemented the 5G Cybersecurity Toolbox which considered that Huawei and ZTE present in fact materially higher risks than other 5G suppliers and confirmed that decisions adopted by Member States to restrict those suppliers are justified and compliant.

Member States and the Union, working in a Team Europe approach and building on existing international cooperation, should be encouraged to cooperate in promoting the development of secure, trusted and resilient submarine cable infrastructures with enlargement countries, third countries, strategic partners, and in multilateral and multistakeholder fora, in line with the approach set out in this Recommendation, particularly in view of promoting CPEIs.

The EU Commission promotes Funding Cable Projects of European Interest (CPEIs). CPEIs should be funded by private financing which may be supported where necessary and appropriate by Union programmes, in particular the CEF Regulation. Member States are encouraged to consider contributing, where necessary and appropriate, to the financing of CPEIs inter-alia, through the participation, of their National Promotional Banks and Institutions or other Implementing Partners in blending facilities or operations at EU level using budget from the CEF programme. Funding of CPEIs could also take place through financial vehicles, for instance equity funds. Member States are encouraged to invest, including via their National Promotional Banks and Institutions, into national or EU-level financial vehicles for the support of submarine cable infrastructures.

Member States are encouraged to cooperate with the EU Commission to assess the effects of this Recommendation by December 2025, with a view to determine appropriate ways forward. This assessment should take into account the consolidated Union-wide assessment and the progress on implementing the CPEIs.

The Recommendation is approved by the European Commission, but not yet formally adopted. It therefore cannot be considered final.