As in 1950, Europe today is again facing the choice of being bold and forward-looking on its future, writes Abraham Liu, Huawei’s Chief Representative to the EU institutions. 9 May is a special day for Europe. On this day, back in 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman delivered a remarkable declaration that braced Europe for the future. Back then, Europe lay in ruins: after the devastations and tragedies of the Second World War, the Old Continent needed to reinvent itself and launch a new model through which its best values – freedom, courage and solidarity – could flourish once more. The revolutionary Schuman Declaration paved the way for what has later become the European Union – a 28-nation economic and cultural powerhouse which continues to inspire the entire world.
Yet, when Schuman delivered his declaration on 9 May 1950, his proposals to pool coal and steel production, and thereby make war between European states materially impossible, seemed illusory to many. Needless to say, the sceptics were proved wrong!
In 2019, Europe Day is celebrated at a moment when technology is bringing tremendous changes to our society and for the future. While people are questioning the impact, let me make it clear: the sceptics are wrong. Europe and Europeans have great potential and capabilities. Europe will continue to be at the forefront of innovation, exploration and achievements.
For this to happen, choices have to be made. Choices of how to reconcile European values with the revolutionary new technologies that are about to impact so profoundly on our way of living.
Next year we will see the deployment of a new generation of mobile communication networks – 5G – which have great potential to change our lives for the better. Worldwide 5G revenues should reach the equivalent of €225 billion in 2025. Not only will more people be connected to the Internet, but vastly more ‘things’. The so-called Internet of Things will see an explosion in machine-to-people and machine-to-machine communications. It will be connecting up to 100 billion devices by 2024 and the benefits of 5G introduction across four key industrial sectors – namely automotive, health, transport and energy – may reach €114 billion per year.
Meeting environmental targets
Everything we use and need can be improved by 5G. It will help us meet societal targets such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and European Commission objectives on, say, climate change and road safety. Emissions, for example, can be reduced drastically through more intelligent automation, helping us meet the Paris Agreement targets to limit climate change, since our energy needs can be met more efficiently through greater connectivity.
Transport will become safer, less polluting and more efficient as cars are connected to each other and associated infrastructure. The same goes for travelling on buses, trains and planes.
Much of our health care could be dispensed automatically, helping control costs and freeing up hospital beds. There will be greater scope for lowering the costs of manufactured products and direct services. And Artificial Intelligence will be on hand to help us make wise choices – selecting, anticipating and correcting everything in our favour.
The potential of 5G for Europeans is phenomenal. At Huawei, we stand ready to work with the European Union on standards and solutions that will ensure 5G is fully compatible with core European values. Huawei understands Europe; we have been operating here for 18 years. Huawei cares about a strong and united Europe. We are ready to work with the EU to roll out 5G the European way.
Making the right decisions
It will be important to make the right decisions, however, and it is true that technically complex issues like cyber security, data privacy and connected vehicles would benefit from more public debate. This is why we opened the Huawei Cyber Security Transparency Centre in Brussels earlier this year, inviting regulators, operators and third parties to visit the centre to find out how we work and why Europe can trust Huawei.
I believe that Europeans will only be able to safeguard their social model and way of life if the full potential of 5G is embraced. As in 1950, the choice ahead is a colossal one: Robert Schuman resolutely embraced the future, ensuring Europeans reaped the benefits for decades to come. Voting for a smarter future with 5G is of no smaller importance today.