On Thursday, the European Commission issued a warning stating that Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE pose security risks to the European Union (EU). Consequently, the commission announced that it will no longer utilize services that depend on these companies.
In a statement, the EU’s executive arm emphasized that Huawei and ZTE present significantly higher risks compared to other 5G suppliers. As a result, the European Commission will implement security measures to avoid procuring new connectivity services that rely on equipment from these suppliers.
Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market Commissioner, urged member states and telecom operators to exclude equipment from these companies in their mobile networks. He emphasized that maintaining critical dependencies on Huawei and ZTE could be exploited as a “weapon” against the EU’s interests, posing a severe risk to collective security.
According to the commission, 24 EU member states have already adopted or are in the process of implementing rules that grant national authorities the power to impose restrictions. However, only 10 member states have utilized these rules to restrict or exclude high-risk vendors, although the specific countries were not named.
Breton expressed concern over the slow adoption of restrictions, highlighting the significant security risk it poses and the vulnerabilities it creates for the EU. This announcement marks a departure for the EU, as previous 5G rules did not include an outright ban on any particular supplier, nor did they explicitly mention Huawei.
The EU’s tougher stance on China, while maintaining ties with Beijing, reflects the pressure exerted by the United States to exclude Huawei and ZTE due to national security concerns. Last year, the US banned the import and sale of communications equipment from Chinese companies, citing fears of compromised Huawei equipment being exploited by Chinese intelligence.
Furthermore, the UK has also blocked Huawei’s involvement in its 5G telecoms network rollout. The European Commission’s warning and decision to no longer rely on Huawei and ZTE services align with the growing global concerns surrounding these Chinese telecom giants.