The European Union won’t explicitly ban Huawei Technologies Co. or other 5G equipment vendors when the bloc unveils guidelines for member states to mitigate security risks.
The EU will unveil a set of recommended measures that are “naturally strict and vigilant” at the end of January, European Digital Commissioner Thierry Breton said at a news conference in Paris on Monday. No companies will be explicitly excluded in the EU’s recommendations, he said.
U.S. officials have criss-crossed Europe over the past year, urging the EU and its members to exclude the Chinese company from their networks. Washington argues Huawei poses a national security risk while Huawei and Chinese officials deny the accusations.
The bloc has sought to coordinate the member states’ approach on 5G, in an effort to avoid potential U.S. or Chinese retaliation targeting any individual European country. Last month, EU countries agreed to use only trustworthy parties for infrastructure that’s critical to national security, and pledged to consider the laws of a supplier’s home country before buying their products.
The EU is limited in what it can tell its member states to do, however. Any decisions to ban companies for national security reasons rest with member states, and many operators in various European countries have already struck deals with Huawei on 5G.
Europe has been caught between China and the United States over the question of whether to include Huawei in its 5G rollout. China is a significant trading partner of many European countries, while the United States, an important security ally, has repeatedly said it may reassess intelligence sharing with countries that use Huawei in their 5G networks.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are divided over whether to support a proposal by their Social Democrat junior coalition partners that, if approved, would effectively shut out Huawei from the network. Merkel’s right-left government, like all of Europe, is under pressure from the United States to bar Huawei.
The U.K. Government is also weighing Huawei’s role in developing the country’s networks. Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan in January said Britain would keep Huawei out of critical national infrastructure. But Reuters quoted sources as saying last week that Britain’s BT and Vodafone are considering urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to risk the rollout of next generation mobile networks by banning Huawei.