SPECIAL REPORT / The European Commission wants new cybersecurity rules to spur industrial growth by turning Europe into a showcase for lucrative security products, but the use of cybersecurity as a proxy for protectionism is also stymieing trade.

The European Commission last month launched its over-arching Cybersecurity Strategy, including measures to ensure harmonised network and information security across the EU.

Whilst consultations were under way on this last June the EU executive simultaneously launched an action plan for the security industry.

The programme intends to empower the industry to stay in Europe and to continue producing high quality security products.

The Commission action plan includes proposals to harmonise standards and certification procedures for security technologies and exploit synergies between security and defence research.

Next month the EU executive is organising workshops in Ispra, Warsaw and Edinburgh, to set roadmaps for standardisation in the general security sector as part of the action plan.

The current fragmented market weakens the competitiveness of Europe’s security industry, said European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, responsible for enterprise and entrepreneurship.

“This lack of an "EU brand" is especially critical as the future key markets for security technologies will not be in Europe but in emerging countries," Tajani said.

Standardisation under way

Talks are under way behind the scenes to agree standardisation on cybersecurity issues too, as a part of the plan, according to industry sources.

The EU security industry is valued between €26 billion and €36.5 billion with around 180,000 employees. It includes the manufacture of counter-terror intelligence and crisis management products, both of which include cyber security elements.

European companies are still among the world leaders in the majority of the security sector's market segments.

The strategy also aims to strengthen cooperation between the public and private sectors, encourage the development of public-private partnerships, and take advantage of other initiatives, such as the European Public-Private Partnership for Resilience (EP3R).

UK-India seal deal on cybersecurity

Meanwhile, cybersecurity remains a key issue in trade negotiations involving member states and the EU executive.

An agreement between the UK and India signed last month (25 February) paved the way for close co-operation between the two countries on cybersecurity including creating a joint task force to exchange and share information about identifying and countering threats.

In addition to academic and security cooperation, however, the deal heralded greater use of offshoring and outsourcing of UK state information and communications technology (ICT) work to India, acting as a lubricant for trade between the two nations.

Cybersecurity is also acting as a block on trade, however. Chinese companies have been frozen out of public contracts with US public authorities on national security grounds, details of which remain hazy.

>> Read: EU holds off China telecoms trade probe amid US 'cyber-espionage' claims

Meanwhile Hibernia – a network cable provider – has reportedly delayed work on a new trans-Atlantic submarine cable, called Project Express, over cybersecurity issues.

US service providers allegedly said they would not be able to use the network over concerns that they would lose contracts with their federal government customers, because Hibernia was working with Chinese partner companies.