Despite recommendations from Brussels to exclude high-risk vendors from technology investments, only a third of EU countries have banned Huawei from critical parts of their 5G communications. The EU’s internal market commissioner Thierry Breton expressed disappointment at the low number of bans, highlighting the potential risk to “the union’s collective security”.
The recommendations put forth in 2020 included certification requirements and supplier diversification but fell short of imposing a ban. If member states, including Germany, continue to delay, the EU could introduce a mandatory prohibition on companies deemed security risks, like Huawei.
The European Commission has refrained from commenting and is expected to provide a progress report on the implementation of the recommendations. However, any new rules enforcing a ban are unlikely to materialize before the current European Commission’s term ends in 2024.
Huawei responded by opposing the politicization of cybersecurity evaluation and emphasized the importance of adhering to technological standards and fair evaluation. The company asserted that it had not been found guilty of malicious intellectual property theft and had not been required to pay damages for intellectual property infringement.
The United States has accused Huawei of being a criminal enterprise involved in theft, violating sanctions against North Korea, and making false statements to the FBI. Germany has expressed concern about the relationship between Deutsche Telekom and Huawei and has been reviewing the use of Chinese components in its 5G infrastructure.
Officials familiar with the discussions in Brussels warned against long-term dependencies on China and drew parallels to the EU’s past reliance on Russian energy supplies. The warnings coincide with mounting worries in the EU about technological dependence on China, its trade practices, and human rights record.
At a recent meeting with telecoms ministers, Commissioner Breton emphasized the risks of overreliance on Chinese vendors and urged member states to act quickly to avoid creating vulnerabilities that would be difficult to reverse.
The EU aims to reduce or eliminate its exposure to geopolitical risks in the 5G network sector and prevent critical dependencies that could be exploited against its interests. Several European nations, including Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the UK, have already banned Huawei from their 5G infrastructure, and others are reevaluating their dependence on China in this domain.