Regions’ and cities’ digital resilience is key to prevent cyber-attacks and secure the continuity of local public services

ECON Meeting in Wismar
31 Oct 2023

Digital resilience across European regions and cities varies widely. Some public authorities have been actively pursuing their digital resilience for years, some have been falling behind due to a lack of funds, human resources and administrative capacity. Members of the Commission for Economic Policy (ECON) of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) gathered in Wismar, Germany, on 18-19 October, to discuss how better connectivity, technologies and skills can help prevent digital divides and accelerate the digital transition​.

While more and more public services become digital and mutually interconnected, the risk of major cyber-attacks or physical attacks on critical infrastructures sharply increases, potentially leading to a 'digital pandemic'. Members of the ECON commission therefore stressed that a preventive approach prioritising cyber resilience and investing in cybersecurity is vital to reduce digital vulnerability. The conference also highlighted that, by supporting research and innovation, public- and private-sector leaders can collaborate to build practical roadmaps for collective resilience.

Tilo Gundlack (DE/PES), Member of the Landtag of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, hosted the meeting and said: "In the European ‘Cybersecurity Month’ for more awareness about the dangers on the Internet, I am pleased that Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is making a contribution and discussing solutions to curb the business of hackers. Again and again, private and public spaces are restricted in their ability to act. Here in Wismar, politicians, schools, city and regions' administrations as well as the Chamber of Industry and Commerce have been affected by cyber threats."

Local and regional authorities play a key role in making digital technologies available to all citizens. ECON members discussed a number of actions to increase the digital resilience of regions and cities. Among the best practices shared during the conference was the experience of the Municipality of Rijeka, in Croatia, where a communication hub and a data centre gives access to a variety of online services related to taxes, schools or utilities to all its citizens and businesses. The Municipality also has a dedicated department which is responsible for data security and looks after the digitalisation of the public administration.

The draft opinion on "EU Cyber Solidarity Act and Digital Resilience", adopted by ECON members during their meeting on 18 October, demands that ongoing efforts to strengthen digital resilience include and support the local and regional level, as local authorities are often the owners and administrators on the ground of vital digital solutions and infrastructures that risk being attacked.

In this light, the opinion calls for appropriate financial, technical and upskilling efforts to raise cybersecurity levels and ensure stronger capabilities to detect, analyse and process data on cyber threats and incidents at local and regional level. The current lack of clear incentives and processes for municipalities and regions to be active partners in strengthening digital resilience represents a risk for the Union and it is therefore crucial to address this gap and integrate regions and cities in increasing the EU's cybersecurity.

Rapporteur Pehr Granfalk (SE/EPP), Member of Solna Municipal Council, said: "Cyberattacks occur more frequently today and are becoming more sophisticated and local authorities are the most vulnerable and preferred targets for hackers. As the digital battleground expands, Europe needs to strengthen its digital defences. Municipalities and regions need concrete support from the national and European level, not just obligations to report attacks. The CoR therefore calls for greater clarity on how this support will be provided to the regions, not least to raise the cybersecurity level in the smaller municipalities."

On 18 October, ECON members also adopted the draft opinion on the "2022 Annual Report on Competition Policy" produced by the European Commission, and called on the European Commission to focus on reinforcing economic, social and territorial cohesion policies, so that the two policies (competition and cohesion) complement each other and promote inclusive and balanced economic growth in European regions and cities. Fair competition is also crucial to promote innovation and an efficient allocation of resources, which is especially important for regions that deal with the digital and green transition. Regions and cities warn that prolonging the relaxation of the competition rules, especially in relation to state aids, will widen the disparity between and within Europe's member states. In particular, rural areas or areas experiencing industrial transition risk missing out on public support.

Rapporteur Antonio Mazzeo (IT/PES), President of the Regional Council of Tuscany, stated: "The competition policy framework has been temporarily made more flexible to adequately support European companies damaged by both the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, especially through the State Aid regime. However, it is now necessary to move from an emergency phase to a permanent framework in order to achieve the objectives of the ecological and digital transitions. I am very proud of this opinion because it is aligned with the principle of 'do no harm to cohesion' as we are calling for a series of reforms of competition policy rules that will allow us to have a high level of investment, especially in the most disadvantaged areas, and a dynamic and fair single market, with benefits for all citizens and businesses".

The two draft opinions are scheduled to be adopted during the 29-30 November CoR plenary session.


The EU Cyber Solidarity Act , proposed by the European Commission on 18 April 2023, aims to strengthen capacities in the EU to detect, prepare for and respond to significant and large-scale cybersecurity threats and attacks. The proposal includes a European Cybersecurity Shield, made of Security Operation Centres interconnected across the EU, and a comprehensive Cybersecurity Emergency Mechanism to improve the EU’s cyber posture.

On 4 April 2023, the European Commission released the Annual Report on Competition Policy for 2022 , which marks the 52 nd edition of the Competition Policy Report. It provides detailed information on the most important policy and legislative initiatives, and on decisions adopted by the European Commission in application of EU competition law during the previous year.

The CoR published a study in April 2023 which investigates the state of play of digital resilience across local and regional authorities in the EU and examines the solutions and funds being used at the subnational level to strengthen this resilience. More information here.


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