Government takes measures against persistent state threats

There is an ongoing threat to our national security posed by other countries. By influencing domestic decision-making, sabotaging critical infrastructure with cyberattacks or engaging in political or commercial espionage, these countries are seeking to gain an advantage at the expense of vital Dutch interests. Such actions put pressure on our open democracy. Examples include last year’s attempted espionage operation by Russian military intelligence against the OPCW, Iran’s likely involvement in hostile actions on European territory, and concerns voiced by members of the Chinese community in Europe about the Chinese authorities pressuring their families in Xinjiang province to share personal data.

Under the coordination of Minister of Justice and Security Ferdinand Grapperhaus, the government is launching an initiative to deal with state threats. This will bolster the open character of our economy so that the Netherlands and its people can continue to benefit from the opportunities generated by digitalisation and globalisation. ‘It’s troubling to see that our open society and economy, and the freedoms that guarantee this openness, give certain countries the scope to undermine our national security and infringe on those very freedoms,’ said Mr Grapperhaus. ‘It’s our task to protect our economy by being open when we can and vigilant when we must. We’re doing this by investing heavily in combating espionage, sabotage and foreign influence. In this way we’re boosting the resilience of our national security and open economy to threats.’

Threat to our open society

These threats put pressure on our open society and open economy. This is the first time the government is adopting a country-neutral approach that cuts across policy areas to identify threats and develop countermeasures. This hybrid threat to national security applies to democratic processes, digitalisation, economic security, international peace and security, the armed forces and social stability. The approach consists of a number of generic measures and agreements on cooperation that can be tailored to individual cases. Civil society organisations and the business community will be actively involved in implementing the new policy.

Tightening and expanding measures

The approach consists of a combination of existing measures, drawn from sources including the Dutch National Cybersecurity Agenda (NCSA), the Integrated International Security Strategy, and the Defence White Paper, as well as various new measures. One example is an ‘investment test’, which will assess possible national security risks posed by corporate takeovers and investment and tender processes. The government will also be more open about attributing attacks to countries. The supervision of students and researchers from high-risk countries will also be expanded in order to prevent sensitive technology from falling into the wrong hands. At the same time, the government will invest in improving intelligence-gathering and information-sharing and in boosting awareness so as to spot potential threats sooner. With a new European Commission set to take office in 2019, the government wants to take the opportunity to push for a more consistent approach to internal security, including state threats.