EU Commission Bans Huawei, ZTE, Urges Countries To Do Same


By Alina Clasen

(EurActiv) — EU Commissioner Thierry Breton urged on Thursday (15 June) member states to use the prerogatives of the 5G Toolbox to restrict or exclude high-risk vendors and announced Commission measures to free its internal networks from Huawei and ZTE.

The second report on implementing the 5G security toolbox, unanimously agreed on by member states on Thursday, found that only 10 member states out of the EU27 have so far used the powers of the 5G Toolkit to impose obligations on high-risk vendors, restricting or excluding them from their 5G networks.

“This is too slow, and it poses a major security risk and exposes the Union’s collective security since it creates a major dependency for the EU and serious vulnerabilities,” EU Commissioner Thierry Breton stated during the press conference.

“We ask our connectivity services and providers to be free of Huawei and ZTE, which applies to new and existing contracts. It applies to all European EU Commission premises, and we call on other EU institutions to follow suit,” Breton added.

The term ‘high-risk vendor’ is normally used to indicate suppliers of ICT equipment that might be at risk of colluding with a hostile power. Western countries grew increasingly wary of Huawei and other Chinese companies because China’s security law might force companies to disclose data to Beijing.

Yet, not all EU countries have fallen in line. Especially Germany has been reluctant to take actions that might jeopardise its commercial relations with China.

The Commission ban means that not only the EU executive will not be using these high-risk vendors, but whichever company provides them services should not be using the Chinese suppliers either.

How far down the supply chain that would go remains to be seen. Breton also wants other institutions to follow suit, as was the case when the Commission banned TikTok on work-related phones.

“The security of 5G networks is essential. They are critical infrastructures in their own right and for other sectors that depend on them, such as energy, transport, health and finance,” explained Breton.

5G Toolbox

The EU unanimously adopted a toolbox on the security of 5G networks back in January 2020. 

Part of the 5G toolbox is for member states to identify ‘high-risk vendors’ and be able to prohibit or restrict them from core elements of the EU-wide 5G networks.

This classification is because some foreign telecommunication providers are subject to “highly intrusive third-country laws on national intelligence and data security.” This includes Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE.

The actions against Huawei were also part of a broader commercial war initiated by the Trump administration, which intended to cripple China’s growing tech sector.

As 5G networks are an essential part of technological development, such as in the application of the Internet of Things, the EU also aims to reduce its dependency on third countries, ensure economic security and maintain its technological sovereignty.

The second report on implementing the 5G security toolbox that was published on the same occasion is a revision of the first progress report of July 2020.

It finds that while 24 EU countries are adopting or preparing legislative measures regarding the EU Toolbox, critical elements have not been implemented.

“This situation creates a clear risk of persisting dependency on high-risk suppliers in the internal market, with potentially serious negative impacts on security for users and companies across the EU and the EU’s critical infrastructure,” the report stated, calling member states to act without further delay.

The report also highlighted the need for technical implementation and particular attention to applying baseline security requirements, raising security standards through robust procurement conditions to fulfil a minimum set of security requirements.

“In case of lack of action by Member States, the Commission will look at further actions to enhance the resilience of the internal market, including exploring possible legislative avenues in consultation with the NIS Cooperation Group,” the report concluded.

Next week, the European Commission will present an economic security strategy that might include further trade policy actions against Chinese companies.


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