European Countries Right To Ban Huawei, ZTE – EU Official

Thierry Breton. Image credit: European Parliament

EU industry chief Thierry Breton says decision by some EU countries to ban Huawei and ZTE is justified and in line with guidelines

Chinese tech giants Huawei Technologies and ZTE continue to face an exclusion challenge from European officials.

Reuters reported that EU industry chief Thierry Breton told a press conference on Thursday that the decision by some European Union countries to ban China’s Huawei and ZTE from their 5G telecoms networks is justified and in line with the bloc’s guidelines.

It comes after the Financial Times reported last week that the EU is considering a mandatory ban on equipment from companies such as Huawei, that are considered to pose a risk to national security.

Thierry Breton. Image credit: European Parliament
Thierry Breton. Image credit: European Parliament

National security

That mandatory ban on firms such as Huawei across the continent of Europe, would represent a dramatic escalation of Western actions against mainly Chinese firms, due to national security worries.

That potential mandatory move comes as a response to increasing concerns in Brussels about certain national governments delaying action on the matter.

Reuters meanwhile noted that Breton has in recent weeks voiced concerns that some EU countries still have perceived high risk components in their 5G core network, citing intrusive third-country laws on national intelligence and data security – a veiled reference to China.

Now this week Reuters reported that Breton has urged European countries to stick to EU guidelines adopted two years ago that call on member states to assess the risk profile of suppliers on a national or EU level, and restrict or ban high-risk 5G vendors from core parts of their telecoms networks.

“The Commission has just published a communication confirming that the decisions taken by certain member states to restrict or exclude completely Huawei and ZTE from their 5G networks are justified and in line with the toolbox,” Breton told a press conference.

EU toolbox

It was back in January 2020 when the European Union had issued its guidance about the role that ‘high-risk’ vendors should play in European 5G networks.

The EU guidance (called the EU toolbox) stated that members can decide what part Huawei can play in its 5G telecoms networks.

Member-states were allowed to either restrict or exclude high-risk 5G vendors from core parts of their telecoms network, but crucially the 2020 EU toolbox resisted pressure from the US for an outright ban on Chinese telecom suppliers.

Instead it was left to individual states to decide whether to ban firms such as Huawei and ZTE.

Some EU countries have banned these firms – others have not (so far).

Breton did not name the countries, but so far only 10 of the 27 EU countries have restricted or blocked high-risk vendors.

“This is too slow, and it poses a major security risk and exposes the Union’s collective security, since it creates a major dependency for the EU and serious vulnerabilities,” Breton was quoted as saying by Reuters

Huawei, ZTE and indeed Beijing itself have strongly rejected Western allegations that the companies’ equipment might be used for espionage purposes.

Tough times

Earlier this week it emerged that Huawei is to supply more than half of a major order of tens of thousands of 5G base stations from China Mobile, China’s biggest telecoms provider, from 2023 to 2024.

That was a welcome development, as it should bring in much-needed revenues for Huawei as it faces the ongoing strictures posed by US trade sanctions that have been in place since 2019.

The US sanctions notably forced Huawei to sell off its Honor smartphone division, while its flagship smartphone business shrank dramatically.

In March this year Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei revealed that his firm had replaced more than 13,000 components in its products with local Chinese-made parts, and redesigned more than 4,000 circuit boards over the past three years in response to US sanctions.