US set to lose Huawei propaganda game in Europe

The US has been investing a lot of energy and time attempting to prove the value of banning Huawei, but it seems a failed quest as the European Commission readies itself to rule out a ban.

According to Reuters, Andrus Ansip, European Commissioner for Digital Single Market, will unveil new plans tomorrow (Tuesday 26). These plans will distance the Commission from the idea of an outright ban across the bloc but heighten security protocols and monitoring requirements for 5G. This is only a recommendation, but such is the political influence of the Commission, it would surprise few to see the proposals pass through to national legislation.

“It is a recommendation to enhance exchanges on the security assessment of digital critical infrastructure,” said one of the four anonymous sources.

The idea is a much more pragmatic and considered one. A ban on a single company, or companies from a single country, is far too narrow-focused and assumes threats can only emerge from that source. A broader approach to security, leaning on monitoring and heightened security requirements, allows the bloc to mitigate risk more effectively and take an impartial approach.

It is believed the Commission will suggest each country set-up mechanisms which can implement and monitor security requirements for equipment in 5G networks, while also creating accreditation processes. Products will seemingly have to be tested to mitigate as much risk as possible. These protocols and security credentials should be shared throughout the member states to create scale.

For the US, this is pretty much worse-case scenario. Its political influence and economic power has been undermined. By sending dozens of delegations across the continent in attempt to convince politicians a Huawei ban was the right way forward, it was clearly confident its lobbying credentials. Should Ansip proceed as anticipated here, the US’ belief in its own influence has clearly been over-estimated.

While the European Commission was reportedly considering a re-write of rules which would effectively ban Huawei and Chinese vendors from the 5G bonanza, this would have put the bureaucrats in conflict with the member states. The majority of European nations, and almost every European telco, has opposed the ban, citing heavy disruptions to 5G progress. Huawei is an important vendor in Europe and it seems Brussels has been listening.

The clues have been there over the last couple of months, but Europe is resisting the ambitions of the US and choosing its own path. The UK has long resisted any sniff of such a ban, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo received a frosty welcome in Eastern Europe and Germany has most recently been pushing back. A smart bet would have been in favour of Huawei.

Although these are still rumours, we will wait for confirmation from the European Commission before getting too worked up, it seems a lack of evidence counted against the US lobby attempts. Suspicions over Chinese espionage will of course continue, but the importance of Huawei to European communications infrastructure cannot be undervalued. Without evidence, the US anti-China propaganda has fallen on deaf ears.

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