A stronger approach to threats from other countries

Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius (Justice and Security), acting on behalf of eight ministers, today sent a letter to Parliament regarding a stronger approach to state threats. This is prompted by the constant growth in such threats as indicated by the State Actors Threat Assessment 2 published by the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) and the National Coordinator for Security and Coun­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­terterrorism (NCTV).

The Netherlands has an open society and an open economy with a lot of top-tier knowledge. But the world is changing. The global geopolitical climate has become undeniably bleaker and more instable. Cooperation with certain states leads to opportunities, but also to risks. As part of this trend, state actors are prioritising their own interests in increasingly assertive ways. They are employing various means that can deliberately or unintentionally compromise the welfare, stability and openness of our society.

National security coming under pressure

The state-sponsored threats may manifest themselves in different ways. These range from spreading disinformation to the use of digital or other resources for espionage and sabotage. This affects national security. The State Actors Threat Assessment 2 addresses, for instance, an increased threat by a more aggressive Russia that has repeatedly used nuclear rhetoric. China is becoming ever more assertive and wishes to change the international legal order to its advantage. The Russian war in Ukraine in particular has shown that our open and international character can also make us vulnerable. Furthermore, there is an unchanged threat of undesirable interference in diaspora communities.

‘We must protect national security and the democratic legal order in our country as much as possible. These are coming under pressure, all the more so with a war on the European continent. Hence, we need to expand and significantly strengthen our approach to state threats in order to counter these threats. This will be a robust approach that combines the efforts of government organisations, the business community and knowledge institutions, and which aims to protect our public interests and to strengthen our ability to detect threats, to deal with them and where necessary to provide a response.’

says Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius.  

Stronger approach

In order to counter these threats, an approach has been formulated based on four important aspects:

1.            A proactive approach when Dutch public interests are being harmed;

2.            Promoting and protecting economic security, including knowledge security;

3.            Counteracting undesirable foreign interventions; and

4.            Protecting democratic processes and institutions.

The Netherlands needs to take a proactive approach when our interests are being harmed. We will do this by creating a government-wide response framework that enables us to push back quickly against a malicious state actor. The aim here is to deter, but also to keep the effect of certain actions to a minimum. In addition, we will further build our knowledge by conducting further research into aspects such as hybrid threats.

Furthermore, it is important that we protect our economic security. We will achieve this by raising awareness and implementing a robust package of measures to increase our resiliency, for instance by further criminalising espionage. A corresponding legislative proposal will be presented to Parliament in the near future. We will also reduce the risks of strategic dependence on things like technology and raw materials and we will better protect vital infrastructure. In addition, we will take measures to prevent undesirable transfer of knowledge and technology, while we will curb misuse of the knowledge migrant scheme and recognised sponsorship in the field of acquisition and contracting.

It is also important to counteract undesirable foreign interference. Awareness of this issue needs to be raised. Extra efforts are needed with respect to undesirable interference by China, but we will certainly not lose sight of other countries. Besides this, current efforts must be supplemented with awareness raising among communities, political office holders and government employees.

Finally, a further priority is the protection of democratic processes and institutions. One example here is a government-wide drive to combat disinformation.