Chinese 5G vendors Huawei and ZTE have been labelled as “high risk” companies that could pose a security threat to European networks, 41 prominent Members of the European Parliament say.
The MEPs expressed their concerns in a letter addressed to EU Telecom, European trade ministers, and the European Commissioners for Trade (Valdis Dombrovskis), for the EU’s Internal Market (Thierry Breton), and for preparing the EU for the Digital Age (Margrethe Vestager), as seen by POLITICO.
In the letter, concerns are raised over “5G security” and “unfair competition between European and Chinese 5G vendors”, as China allegedly supplies its companies with “billions of euros of public subsidies”.
A spokesperson from Huawei countered the allegations. “Huawei is 100% owned by its own employees. We should be cautious when labelling vendors on the basis of the location of their headquarters. Some companies might be headquartered in Europe, but have their substantial decision center, their supply chains and their research and development facilities in other world regions, such as the US or China. This includes two of our major 5G peers.”
The development may have serious negative consequences for Huawei. The company was cut off from buying specialised American products needed to build Huawei phones (called semi-conductors) in July, after security concerns were raised over alleged data collection from American users.
Following the US sanctions, Google was no longer allowed to continue its updates for Huawei users relying on Google’s Android operating system. As a result, over time, the Huawei phones will be unable to operate properly.
If the EU decides to take similar steps, Huawei may find it increasingly more difficult to serve its 90 million Huawei users in Europe.
Huawei and ZTE “are obliged under Chinese law to comply with China’s undemocratic authoritarian regime”, which uses “networks to control its own population and to spy Western governments, companies and citizens,” the MEPs wrote.
“There is therefore no question that Huawei and ZTE are ‘high-risk’ vendors, whose technology in Europe’s 5G networks would constitute a security threat.”
Huawei has consistently denied allegations of spying on Western users. “There is a major reason why the US is now bullying Europe to exclude 5G providers from China, and not everybody might be aware of it. Europe and China worked together already in the 4G era, resulting in one unified standard, LTE. This then became the basis for joint standards for 5G, driven by Europe and China, with the US left out. The US now, is trying to buy time to catch up,” a spokesperson said.
“To be clear: Europe and China are the leaders in 5G. It is in Europe’s interest to remain in the leadership position when it comes to deploying 5G,” Huawei added.
Earlier this year, following similar allegations, President Donald Trump considered banning the popular Chinese app TikTok multiple times. TikTok is currently negotiationg selling off its American branch to Microsoft in order to avoid a US ban.
The Brussels Times