EU to drop threat of Huawei ban

Yet, the bloc would insist on 5G risks being monitored

Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Single Market

The European Commission will call on EU Member States next week to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks but will reportedly ignore US calls to ban Huawei Technologies, four people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday.

According to the media Commission's Vice- President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip will present the recommendation on Tuesday. Specifically, he will tell EU countries to use tools set out under the EU directive on security of network and information systems, or NIS directive, adopted in 2016 and the recently approved Cybersecurity Act. For example, Member States should exchange information and coordinate on impact assessment studies on security risks and on certification for internet-connected devices and 5G equipment. Yet, the Commission will not call for a European ban on global market leader Huawei, leaving it to EU countries to decide themselves on national security grounds.

Reuters stresses, that even though the guidance does not have legal force, it will carry political weight which can eventually lead to national legislation in European Union countries.

“It is a recommendation to enhance exchanges on the security assessment of digital critical infrastructure,” one of its sources claims.

The EU executive’s guidance marks a tougher stance on Chinese investment after years of almost unfettered European openness to China, which controls 70% of the global supply of the critical raw materials needed to make high-tech goods. It also comes amid the US' call on Europe to shut out Huawei, saying its equipment could be used by the Chinese government for espionage, even though the company has strongly rejected the allegations and earlier this month sued the US government over the issue.

Yet, the leaders of Eastern and Central European countries, as well as big European telecoms operators have opposed a Huawei ban, saying such a move could set back 5G deployment in the bloc by years. In a blow to the administration, for example, earlier that month the British government announced that it was moving away from its adamant stand against using Huawei baseline equipment for 5G rollout. Compounding this blow, the German government also signaled that it was leaning toward working with Huawei in its 5G rollout.

This is not surprising since in the emerging competitive technological landscape, ensuring that Europe is a global leader in 5G is essential. Especially since the industry sees the technology as the next money spinner, with its promise to link up everything from vehicles to household devices. And losing the race to 5G would have significant negative repercussions on Europe’s economy, along with the strategic implications of falling behind on the development of emerging technologies. 

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