EU demands scrutiny of 5G risks but no bloc-wide Huawei ban

March 26, 2019

By Foo Yun Chee

STRASBOURG (Reuters) – EU nations will be required to share data on 5G cybersecurity risks and produce measures to tackle them by the end of the year, the European Commission said on Tuesday, shunning U.S. calls to ban China’s Huawei Technologies across the bloc.

The aim is to use tools available under existing security rules plus cross-border cooperation, the bloc’s executive body said as it addressed issues surrounding expansion of the next-generation networks that are key to online connectivity between everything from vehicles to household devices.

The European Union move came despite U.S. pressure to boycott Huawei, citing fears of China using the company’s equipment for espionage. Huawei has strongly rejected the allegations and launched a lawsuit against the U.S. government.

The EU provided additional detail on the plans first reported by Reuters on March 22, with European digital chief Andrus Ansip saying that the measures announced on Tuesday aimed to address concerns about foreign governments using companies for espionage.

Last week French President Emmanuel Macron said that Europe was wakening up to potential Chinese dominance in the region.

Ansip said that 5G technology would transform the economy and society, but that this cannot happen without full security built in.

“It is therefore essential that 5G infrastructures in the EU are resilient and fully secure from technical or legal backdoors,” Ansip said in a statement.

EU countries have until the end of June to assess cybersecurity risks related to 5G, leading to an bloc-wide assessment by Oct. 1. Using this, EU countries would then have to agree measures to mitigate risks by the end of the year.

Such measures could include certification requirements and tests of products or suppliers regarded as potential security risks. The bloc will decide by Oct. 1, 2020, whether to take further action.

The EU has already passed a new law to give permanent status to the EU Cybersecurity Agency and to guide on cybersecurity certification.

The Commission said it will be up to individual EU countries to decide if they want to exclude companies from their markets on national security grounds.

Big telecoms operators, which view 5G as the next big moneyspinner, oppose a Huawei ban, saying that such a move could set back 5G deployment by years.

Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment ahead of the likes of Sweden’s Ericsson and Finnish company Nokia, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government and U.S.-led allegations that its equipment could be used for spying.

Australia and New Zealand have stopped operators using Huawei equipment in their 5G networks.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and David Goodman)

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