Wednesday, April 10 2024

A recent EU report demands a crackdown on Chinese technology companies Huawei and ZTE, escalating discord with Beijing. The report marks a second step in evaluating the implementation of the “5G cybersecurity toolbox,” published in January 2020.

The toolbox is designed to bolster mobile network security requirements, evaluate suppliers’ risks, limit any reliance on a sole vendor, and spur 5G innovation within the EU. It also advises against sourcing 5G equipment used in Radio Access Networks from “high-risk suppliers.” 

According to the latest report, most member states have implemented the toolbox’s security requirements, enabling countries to exclude suppliers based on assessed security risk. The report urges the remaining member states to swiftly enact laws to reflect the toolbox requirements and adopt relevant provisions in the interim. 

However, only ten member states have used the laws to constrain or eliminate high-risk suppliers. Just three of them are in the process of adopting legislation, fostering security risks and over-reliance on single suppliers. EU commissioner for internal market Thierry Brenton described this progress as “too slow” in a speech regarding the new report, highlighting that quicker advancement is essential to “economic security and sovereignty.”  

Member states are also directed to impose restrictions on Huawei and ZTE, which were found to represent “materially higher risks than other 5G suppliers.” The two telecommunication companies based in China have long been scrutinized for their security practices and relationship with the Chinese government. The U.S. and U.K., among others, have already banned them from operating within their 5G networks. The report affirms such measures by member states, calling them “justified” and “compliant” with toolbox standards.  

The EU will also be taking action to cut ties with network services that use these companies as suppliers and will work with member states and telecom providers. They will progressively discontinue them from the current network services of the commission sites, and all future decisions concerning funding programs will be based on similar security risk assessments.  

The report has also issued new recommendations to fulfill the vision of the toolbox. Some recommendations are guaranteeing member states have complete information from mobile network operators about their 5G equipment and quickly removing any equipment.

The toolbox asks member states to maintain a “strong level of supervision.” When assessing suppliers’ risk profiles, it asks to consider other member states’ security designations to promote consistency across the union. 

China has denounced these recent developments, saying the proposed restrictions are groundless. Huawei and ZTE continue to reject claims that their technology poses risks to national security.

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