Germany responded in a predictably robust fashion to a perceived threat by the U.S. to limit intelligence sharing with Germany if Huawei was allowed to be part of Germany’s future 5G infrastructure. Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly retorted that Germany would define its own security standards for 5G, thank you very much.
According to Reuters, Germany did attempt a more conciliatory approach after Merkel’s transatlantic coordinator, Peter Beyer, noted that the German government shares U.S. concerns about the ability of the China-based vendor to meet stringent 5G security standards. However, Germany is clearly bristling over U.S. efforts to teach it how to manage its own security.
The latest diplomatic rift was exacerbated by Germany’s refusal to explicitly ban Huawei from future network deployments, including 5G. This apparently prompted Richard Grenell, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, to send a letter to Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, with the warning about reduced intelligence sharing if Huawei equipment were to be deployed in 5G networks.
Broader EU Implications
Meanwhile, as individual European Union (EU) member states try to work out their own approach to Huawei and fellow China-based equipment vendor ZTE, the European Parliament added its voice to concerns over alleged cyberthreats from China if equipment from Chinese vendors is used in 5G networks.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) this week adopted the EU Cybersecurity Act that establishes the first EU-wide cybersecurity certification scheme to ensure that certified products, processes, and services sold in EU countries meet cybersecurity standards.
During the debate, the parliament also adopted a resolution calling for action at the EU level on the security threats linked to China’s growing technological presence in the region. MEPs said they had “deep concern about recent allegations that 5G equipment may have embedded backdoors that would allow Chinese manufacturers and authorities to have unauthorized access to private and personal data and telecommunications in the EU.” They also alluded to the fact that Chinese state security laws might represent a security risk for the EU in this context.
Huawei’s Rotating Chairman Guo Ping recently told attendees at the MWC Barcelona event in Spain that the vendor “has not, and we will never plant backdoors, and we will never allow anyone to do so in our equipment.”
MEPs now want the European Commission (EC) and EU member states to provide guidance on how to tackle cyberthreats and vulnerabilities when procuring 5G equipment. There were also suggestions that efforts should be made to reduce Europe’s dependence on foreign cybersecurity technology – no doubt music to the ears of homegrown vendors Ericsson and Nokia.
In terms of next steps, the European Council now has to formally approve the Cybersecurity Act, while the resolution on Chinese IT presence in the EU will be sent to the European Commission and to member states.