European industrial policy chief Thierry Breton dismissed claims that relying on European companies to build a 5G network would delay its rollout, weighing in on an increasingly tense debate in Germany over the risk posed by China’s Huawei, Reuters reports.
In a speech at the DLD conference in Munich on Sunday, Breton, a former French finance minister, warned policy-makers in Germany and elsewhere that the new 5G technology will require more stringent security rules than previous generations, the report said.
“Setting up strict security conditions will not create delays in the rollout of 5G in Europe,” Breton was quoted as saying, in prepared remarks obtained by Reuters in advance.
:”Europe, including Germany of course, is on track. We are not, and won’t be, late in Europe on the deployment of 5G.”
The warning by Breton contrasts with comments by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer who said earlier this week that if Chinese companies were excluded, the construction of the 5G network would be postponed for at least five to ten years.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are divided over whether to support a proposal by their Social Democrat junior coalition partners that, if approved, would effectively shut out the Chinese technology giant from the network.
Merkel’s right-left government, like all of Europe, is under pressure from the United States to bar Huawei, whose gear Washington says contains “back doors” that would enable China to spy on other countries.
Breton, who heads the vast ‘Single Market’ portfolio in the new European Commission which includes industrial policy, has said Europe should preserve its “technological sovereignty” by ensuring it has domestic alternatives in strategic areas.
A so-called “toolbox” of security standards that EU member states should apply to their 5G networks would be ready this month, he added: “Everybody is welcome in Europe, but more and more we will issue clear rules – and everybody will have to fulfill all these rules.”
In his speech, he did not explicitly call for a ban on Huawei, saying: “Any company, European or not, will be welcome provided of course that they abide by our European rules. We will not build a European fortress.”
But the call to favor European providers such as Nokia and Ericsson and set up more stringent security rules will please opponents of the Chinese company, the report noted.
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