Top EU official encourages excluding China’s Huawei from other governments and ZTE from 5G grids

June 21, 2023: A top European Union official has reached on more EU governments to exclude Chinese telecommunications firms Huawei and ZTE from their 5G networks, increasing tensions with Beijing.

The EU commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, said that he likes member states to release “high-risk” suppliers such as Huawei and ZTE from their mobile internet infrastructure upgrades, citing national security risks.

In January 2020, the EU assumed a “5G cybersecurity toolbox” to identify the risks of accepting certain providers of 5G infrastructure into its rollout. That came as several countries, including the U.K., banned Huawei regarding safety fears.

“We will continue to work with determination with the Member States that are lagging and the telecommunications operators,” Breton said in a Thursday speech.

“I can only stress the importance of speeding up decisions to replace high-risk suppliers from their 5G networks. I have also reminded the telecoms operators concerned that it is time to get to grips with this issue.”

To date, only 10 EU countries have restricted or banned Huawei from their 5G networks, Breton said.

“For our part, the Commission will implement the 5G toolbox principles to its procurement of telecoms services to avoid exposure to Huawei and ZTE,” Breton said.

China subsequently said it firmly disagrees with some EU countries’ ban on Huawei and that the Commission has no legal basis for prohibiting the firm.

Breton’s comments follow news that Germany is considering banning Huawei and ZTE from its 5G network because of alleged national security risks. In response, China’s embassy in Germany said it was “puzzled and strongly dissatisfied” by the reports.

However, more recently, it has leaned towards the “system rival” part, seeking to keep China close as a partner while staying wary of its growing influence in developing critical technologies.

In a speech earlier this year, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission’s president, said she thinks the bloc should reevaluate its ties with Beijing. Therefore, she said it was not in the EU’s best interests to “decouple” from China. Instead, she said, it should look to “de-risk” its relationship with China.

Operators have struggled to replace Huawei as the infrastructure provider in their mobile networks. Industry executives say Huawei’s technology is often cheaper and more advanced than competition such as Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung.

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Top EU official encourages excluding China’s Huawei from other governments and ZTE from 5G grids