Some infrastructures are considered critical because they provide vital services to societies such as transportation and communications systems, water and power lines, and public institutions including schools, post offices, and prisons.
Critical infrastructures can be damaged, destroyed or disturbed by incidents such as terrorist attack, natural disasters, negligence, malicious behaviour or computer hacking. Due to the variety of threats to critical infrastructures the damages also vary from property to human lives.
Critical infrastructures are interconnected through computers and other communication facilities. This means that a disruption to one critical infrastructure may also cause adverse consequences to other critical infrastructures.
Transport infrastructure forms an essential part of critical infrastructures consisting of land, sea and air transport networks. These transport networks allow people to move and goods to circulate. Transport infrastructure well illustrates the vulnerability and interdependence of critical infrastructures; if an airplane faces a bomb treat in Belgium, it will necessarily affect the air transport in other countries, and most probably other modes of transport.
As a result of rising public concern over security in Europe, the European Commission has taken a number of important steps towards protection of European critical infrastructures:
1. The European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP)
This Programme was set up with a view to identify critical infrastructure, to analyse their vulnerability and interdependence, and to provide solutions to protect them from, and prepare them for, all hazards.
2. The Commission Communication (COM) 2006 786
The Commission set out the principles and instruments needed to implement the European Programme for Critical Infrastructures. The objectives were three-fold (cfr the Communication):
- To develop measures horizontally applicable to all stakeholders sharing information on critical infrastructures;
- To improve the protection of European critical infrastructures and reduce their vulnerability;
- To establish a national framework to assist EU countries in the protection of their national critical infrastructures.
3. Green Paper on a European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection
The Green Paper defined the role of the Commission with regard to the establishment of the European Programme to protect critical infrastructures.
4. Directive 2008/114/EC on the identification and designation of European critical infrastructures and the assessment of the need to improve their protection
The European Programme to protect critical infrastructures finally led to the adoption of the Directive on the critical infrastructures, which is an important step towards common policies in the European Union. In its first stage, the Directive focuses on the transport and energy sectors.