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French parliament passes “Huawei Law” to govern 5G security

Both houses of the French parliament have voted in favour of the new law, dubbed the “Huawei Law”, to give the government the power to security vet 5G rollouts in the country.

The legislation process started when France, being pressured by the US to exclude Huawei from the country’s 5G networks, decided to keep the decision-making power in its own hands, hence the nickname. An earlier draft of the legislation was met with protests from the parliament as being too “open-ended” which would give the government too much power.

The final stage of the legislation process started three weeks ago, when a joint group of 14 parliamentarians (la commission mixte paritaire, or CMP) from the Senate and the National Assembly started putting the final touches to the draft. According to the announcement from the Senate when the final stage started, Senator Catherine Procaccia stressed that the Senate’s amendments have excluded the ongoing 4G rollout from the upcoming law, and demanded the authorisation process be simplified from two-stage to one-stage. Sophie Primas, the chairperson of the economic affairs committee, also believed that the amended version was more balanced than the initial proposal.

The AFP reported that, after an ultimate vote on the Senate floor, the parliament has given its final approval to the comprised text, which it is now ready for President Macron to sign into law. When it becomes effective, the Prime Minister will have the power to approve or reject the telecom operators’ plans to roll out 5G networks, considering the implications on national security. The PM’s decision needs to be made within two months of the application.

Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Secretary of State for Economy and Finance, told the AFP that the new law will establish a stable, simple, and protective legal framework without delaying France’s deployment of 5G, and the government is already in the process of finalising the implementation details. She also stressed that there will not be a city 5G and a rural 5G in France. Each operator should have 12,000 sites equipped with 5G by 2025, a quarter of which should be in the rural areas, she told the news agency.

This piece of legislation is made at a time when the European Union is developing a pan-EU framework to assess 5G risks. Although it is one of the two most powerful driving forces in the EU (the other being Germany), France has a tradition of going its own way without waiting for the EU legislations to catch up. A recent example is the decision to go ahead with the 3% sales tax on the internet heavyweights without waiting for a European-wide single digital market regulation.

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