June 8. 2023. 10:25

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Dutch lawmakers call for better protection of North Sea from espionage

Lawmakers from coalition partners VVD (Renew), CDA (EPP) and D66 (Renew) called on the Defence Ministry to take complete responsibility for the protection and surveillance of critical infrastructure in the North Sea.

Responsibility for the protection and surveillance of the North Sea’s infrastructure is currently divided among seven ministries.

“There are Russian ships that stay in one place at sea for a very long time, over a data junction. And we don’t know what they are tapping,” he added.

Lawmakers argue that efforts to protect critical infrastructure in the North Sea would be more effective if protection and surveillance merely fell under the responsibility of one single ministry. The Dutch military intelligence service (MIVD) has warned on several occasions about the threat of large-scale sabotage of North Sea infrastructure by Russia.

Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren (D66) welcomed the proposal, underlining that Dutch critical infrastructure is in danger.

“The Dutch [people] need to know this. Russia is interested in our wind farms, and not because they want to build them themselves,” she stated.

Ollongren further vowed to intensify cooperation within the framework of the EU and NATO, especially in information exchange.

However, Infrastructure and Water Management Minister Mark Habers (VVD) defended the status quo, pointing out that many ministries are involved due to the sheer quantity of policies tied to the North Sea.

Just last month, a documentary by Danish public service broadcaster DR revealed that a Russian military programme had mapped out offshore wind farms, gas pipelines, and electricity and internet cables in Scandinavian countries, apparently to carry out acts of sabotage.

“We should never have the illusion that the North Sea is 100% secure, but we must now conclude that it is under-secured,” MP Peter Valstar (VVD) stated.

(Benedikt Stöckl | EURACTIV.com)

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