By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission proposed on Wednesday to pool resources and expertise from the EU's 27 countries for a joint cyber unit to fight online criminals amid a spate of high profile hacks in Europe and worldwide.
The EU executive said authorities needed to be able to respond collectively and exchange relevant information on a "need to share", rather than a "need to know", basis.
"Today, we can no longer distinguish between online and offline threats. We need to pool all our resources to defeat cyber risks and enhance our operational capacity," Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said in a statement.
The cyber unit aims to be operational by June next year and fully set up in 2023. Funding will come from the Commission's programme for digital technology and potentially from its defence research and development fund.
Members of the unit will come from the EU Agency for Cybersecurity, experts from EU countries, Europol's European Cybercrime Centre, the EU foreign service EEAS and the European Defence Agency.
Earlier this month, Poland reported an extensive cyberattack on top government officials, which it said came from Russia.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) in December last year said a limited number of documents related to U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German partner BioNTech had been accessed in a cyberattack.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Mark Potter)