On 28 September 2017, the EU launched for the first time an exercise to test its crisis response tools and mechanisms to counter cyber and hybrid threats. The Parallel and Coordinated Exercise – PACE17 – layed out a scenario of a hybrid threat affecting the EU and its Member States and test throughout one week, until 4 October, their reactivity to such security challenges.
The objective of the exercise was to enhance preparedness and evaluate the effectiveness of EU instruments and mechanisms in case of an eventual attack, as well as to consequently propose improvements where needed.
A separate crisis management exercise is conducted by NATO from 4 to 11 October 2017. NATO's CMX17 exercise and PACE are conducted independently, but in a parallel and coordinated manner, ensured by EU – NATO staff-to-staff coordination and participation throughout both exercises. The aim is to improve the synchronisation of crisis response activities between the two organisations.
A hybrid threat is typically multi-dimensional in nature and can comprise a combination of different security challenges, such as a significant increase of disinfomation in social media, cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, or hacks and subsequent leakages of sensitive information, as well as terrorist acts. Hybrid threats and cyber-attacks have become increasing threats to the European Union's citizens and economy over recent year. The EU has therefore decided to put greater emphasis on these issues and step up its capacity to respond to them.
PACE17 focused on four key areas, namely situational awareness, effectiveness of our instruments to counter cyber threats at EU level, speed of reaction and appropriate reactivity of our crisis response mechanisms, as well as our capacity to communicate fast and in a coordinated way. The exercise will be followed by an evaluation phase, to identify lessons learned and improve our toolbox.
Progress in synchronising crisis response activities between the EU and NATO forms a key objective in the common set of proposals that supports the implementation of the Joint Declaration, signed in July 2016 in Warsaw by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and NATO Secretary General.