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Huawei crackdown

EU avoids explicit ban on Huawei 5G technology

Members urged to adopt restrictions against 'high risk' vendors

Huawei Technologies commands a large share of the European Union's telecom equipment market.   © Reuters

BRUSSELS -- The European Union stopped short Wednesday of recommending an absolute ban against 5G equipment from Chinese producer Huawei Technologies, chosing instead to endorse limits on "high risk" suppliers.

The European Commission's conclusion follows Tuesday's decision by the U.K. to grant Huawei a narrowly defined role in constructing the country's fifth-generation telecommunications infrastructure.

Both positions run counter to U.S. efforts urging allies to blacklist Huawei altogether over alleged links to Chinese espionage.

The commission's guidelines offer measures for reducing cybersecurity risks to 5G networks. Though no country or company is identified by name, Huawei appears to be the major concern.

The guidelines are not binding, and individual EU members are free to exclude Huawei entirely. But as the world's largest telecom equipment maker, Huawei already commands a hefty market share in Europe.

Telecom networks in several EU countries depend on Huawei components, and some nations are disinclined to completely reject the Chinese company's less-costly 5G hardware. A total ban on Huawei may risk delaying the development of European 5G networks, adding to concerns that China and the U.S. have moved ahead in terms of advanced technology.

The bloc appears mostly in line with the European Commission's recommendations. Nations will craft policy based on the guidelines and prepare a joint report for the commission by June.

Member states are called upon to perform risk assessments of 5G suppliers from both technological and other perspectives. The commission urges inquiries into whether a foreign government has involvement in a vendor's business activities, echoing concerns over the ties between Huawei and Beijing.

The guidelines also promote a diversification of suppliers to mitigate the risk to 5G networks.

The commission recommends that EU members "apply relevant restrictions for suppliers considered to be high risk" and exclude these businesses from "key assets," such as those critical for core network functions. That leaves the door open for all contractors to supply antennas and other peripheral devices.

Margrethe Vestager, an executive vice president on the European Commission, said 5G technology will make a positive difference. "But only if we can make our networks secure," she added. "Only then will the digital changes benefit all citizens."

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