EU mulls proposals to shut China firms from 5G networks: report

January 31, 2019 09:20
Huawei has denied accusations of spying and sabotage. Photo: AFP

The European Union is considering proposals that would effectively amount to a de-facto ban on Huawei Technologies Co. equipment for next-generation mobile networks, Reuters reports, citing four senior EU officials.

While efforts by the EU’s executive are still at the very early stages and could prove complicated to implement, the move marks a shift in the EU’s stance amid growing security concerns in the West about China.

According to the four senior EU officials, one option under consideration by the European Commission is to amend a 2016 cybersecurity law, which requires businesses involved in critical infrastructure to take appropriate security measures.

By amending the definition of critical infrastructure to also include so-called fifth generation mobile networks, the law would effectively prevent EU businesses from using such equipment provided by any country or company suspected of using its equipment for spying or sabotage, the officials said.

Other changes could also be required or made, such as changes to procurement rules, the officials added. 

The officials stressed that any changes weren’t about one company only and were prompted by broader national security concerns regarding China. 

A move to exclude Chinese firms such as Huawei is likely to be welcomed by the United States, which has been trying to prevent American companies from buying Huawei infrastructure equipment and has been pressing allies to do the same. 

US security experts are concerned the gear could be used by China’s government for espionage, a concern Huawei calls unfounded. 

A Huawei spokeswoman said: “Huawei is open and committed to work with European institutions to develop a cyber security standard for Europe.”

The company’s opening of a new cybersecurity center in Brussels in March underlines its commitment to Europe, she added.

“Huawei has a clean track record on cyber security,” the spokeswoman said. Huawei has denied accusations of spying and sabotage.

The Chinese government denies any intention to spy on the West and has decried a ban on Chinese 5G suppliers in the US and Australia as unfounded. 

China’s Ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, took a similar message to a private meeting at the Commission with EU tech commissioner Andrus Ansip on Jan. 29, arguing that Huawei should not be blocked from 5G auctions in Europe, one of the four officials said.

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