Romania to host the EU's new cybersecurity research hub

Romania's capital, Bucharest, was selected as host for the EU's future cybersecurity research hub.

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Razvan Negrea

The European Council voted on Wednesday to locate the EU's future cybersecurity research hub in Bucharest, Romania's capital.

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Named the European Cybersecurity Industrial, Technology and Research Competence Centre, or the ECCC, the new hub is set to start operating next year.

The new research hub will operate separately from ENISA (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security), the EU's official cybersecurity agency.

While ENISA will be focused on standards, the European Council said the ECCC will be "the EU's main instrument for pooling investment in cybersecurity research, technology and industrial development."

Although not a formal EU agency, the ECC will be tasked with funding new cybersecurity research, providing financial support and technical assistance to cybersecurity start-ups and SMEs, and promoting cyber-security standards.

The new hub is part of the EU's focus on shoring up its digital market. Under the new Digital Europe program, the EU plans to allocate more than €2 billion to cybersecurity from the EU budget for years 2021-2027.

More about the ECCC and its responsibilities can be found on the hub's official website.

Seven countries filed applications to host the new cybersecurity research hub. The list of applicants included Bucharest (Romania), Brussels (Belgium), Munich (Germany), Leon (Spain), Vilnius (Lithuania), Warsaw (Poland), and Luxembourg.

EU state members selected Bucharest as host for the new agency in two rounds of voting on Wednesday, December 9. Bucharest was chosen over Brussels in a 15-12 vote in the last round.

All applicants had strong cases. For example, the Lithuanian delegation offered to host the ECCC in the famous Vilnius TV tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world.

Leon offered to host the agency in its huge former train station and also relied on the fact that it was designated as Spain's cybersecurity center and already hosting a high-performance computing center.

Brussels used its proximity to other EU agencies to promote its bid, but this turned out to be a weak point in the end, after Romanian officials used the fact that Romania was denied the possibility to host any EU agency or hub since the country joined the EU in 2007 as its primary point for securing a successful vote in the last round.

Bucharest also promoted its burgeoning IT sector, with the city already hosting many cybersecurity firms for decades, and offered to let the EU choose to host the research hub in one of three buildings: a classic villa in Bucharest's old center, a modern office tower, or a typical government building near Bucharest's government bodies, per its official bid [PDF].