‘Concilliatory tone’ between EU and Huawei as teleco giant opens Brussels cybersecurity centre

High-level officials at the European Commission and the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei sought to build bridges on Monday (4 March), as Vice President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip sat down with Huawei rotating chairman Ken Hu in an encounter described as “conciliatory” by a Huawei spokesperson.

The meeting came a day before the opening of a Huawei cybersecurity centre in Brussels, in a move aimed at appeasing security concerns on the continent. In December, Ansip had said that Europe should be “worried” about Huawei and other Chinese companies.

Following Monday’s meeting, a Huawei spokesperson informed EURACTIV that Ansip and Hu had discussed a range of issues including “cybersecurity standards, 5G and tomorrow’s opening of the Huawei Brussels Cybersecurity Transparency Centre.”

Last week, EU ministers in charge of telecoms banded together to demand a common position on Huawei, following concerns related to the security of the firm’s equipment.

During a meeting in Bucharest, EU member state officials spoke about the need to adopt a “European approach” towards Huawei, which has come under scrutiny over allegations of a backdoor within the company to the Chinese government that enables state-sponsored espionage.

Not 'one single cybersecurity issue', Huawei says

A senior Huawei representative said on Monday (25 February) that there has never been one legitimate “cyber security issue” with the company. The statement came as EU Digital Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said that 5G security is a “priority”.

However, during the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last week, Huawei came out with fighting talk, with the company’s President of Western Europe, Vincent Pang, saying that there “has never been one cybersecurity issue” with the firms’ equipment.

EURACTIV sat down with Pang recently and he attempted to assuage the concerns surrounding Huawei’s cybersecurity track record.

“The Americans don’t have any evidence at all as to the claims levelled at us,” he said. “If they have something against us, then they should let everyone know what it is.”

Stateside developments

On Monday, the New York Times reported that Huawei is set to sue the US government for prohibiting products made by the company for use across federal agencies. The newspaper stated that the move may be “aimed at forcing the United States government to more publicly make its case against the Chinese equipment maker.”

The US authorities have been the most vocal critic of Huawei’s alleged security weaknesses and links to the Chinese government.

On the sidelines of the MWC last week, EURACTIV spoke to a senior US official about Washington’s stance on Huawei. The official was not able to disclose any evidence that that government had obtained that proves the company has been taking part in espionage campaigns on behalf of the Chinese state.

However, the official did raise concerns surrounding the Chinese cybersecurity law, which they described as obliging “Chinese companies to collaborate with the Communist government on espionage campaigns.”

Chinese cybersecurity law is a 'loaded weapon,' senior US official says

China’s cybersecurity law allows the state to conduct foreign espionage projects, and its legislation is comparable to a “loaded gun” that the rest of the world should not want to stand in front of, a senior US official told EURACTIV on Wednesday (26 February). But Chinese officials were adamant that this was not the case.

Meanwhile, in Canada, a criminal investigation continues into the actions of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer and the daughter of Huawei’s founder, who is accused of stealing trade secrets and interfering with American sanctions on Iran.

On Friday (1 March), Canada’s Department of Justice authorised an extradition hearing for Wanzhou, that is set to begin this week.

Huawei maintains that the detention is unlawful. The company has accused the Canadian Border Services Agency of various misdemeanours, including depriving her of the right to hire a lawyer at the time of detention as well as her right to remain silent under questioning.

The EU has its own criminal investigation into Huawei taking place.

In Poland, the Chinese firm was hit with espionage allegations after a Huawei employee, Weijing W, otherwise known as ‘Stanislaw Wang’, was arrested in the country in January.

Following the arrest, it was reported that Poland may consider a ban on Huawei products as a result of the allegations.

EU seeks information as Chinese espionage scandal hits Poland

European Commission will seek information from Poland after national authorities arrested this week a Chinese Huawei employee and a Polish national over espionage allegations.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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