Increased cooperation between Western Balkan economies in the face of continuously increasing cyberattacks, cybercrime and hybrid threats present a key goal of numerous recent European declarations and initiatives. The Declaration of the 2020 Zagreb Summit between the European Union and Western Balkan leaders notes that so-called hybrid activities originating from third-state actors, including disinformation around COVID-19, have become increasingly prevalent in the Western Balkans and calls for increased cooperation to address such threats. Additionally, The Digital and Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, the Regional Cooperation Council, the Regional School of Public Administration and other regional initiatives provide a general framework for enhanced cooperation.
In addressing these important issues, this paper identifies the ways in which closer regional collaboration is beneficial for building resilience, enhancing regional cybersecurity and enhancing strategic communication, collaboration and partnerships.
The cybersecurity workforce shortage, skills gap and slow progress in public administration reforms are significant concerns for economic development and national security in the region, especially given the rapid digitization of global and regional economies.
This policy paper identifies a customized joint framework in the form of a regional hub as a suitable example for ensuring more vital regional cooperation between Western Balkan economies, with clear political support and shared ownership. Economies of the region could task the potential regional cybersecurity hub to operate across areas which are within the usual practices of national cybersecurity authorities, thereby keeping a special focus on:
1. Providing thought leadership and strategic development direction and analysis in the cyber-security space.
2. Sharing information, expertise, and knowledge; and
3. Establishing and promoting best practices based on common challenges.