Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has warned that if the Chinese tech supplier Huawei is excluded from the country’s 5G rollout project, it could be stalled for as long as five or even ten years.
"I don't see that we can set up a 5G network in Germany at short notice without Huawei's participation", the minister told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, noting that Germany needs to develop capabilities for it first.
Calling for Competitiveness
He also called on Europeans and his compatriots to make efforts to become more competitive in this field, as no German company is currently able to build the 5G network and only two European firms have that capability. At the same time, Seehofer noted that Germany does not want to block the Chinese telecommunications giant from the market in general, as the US and several other allies do because of its alleged ties with the Chinese government, while he went on to lambast "global and general trade restrictions".
"I am against taking a product out of the market just because there is a possibility that something could happen. I am against global and general trade restrictions”, he said, adding that he fully agrees with Chancellor Angela Merkel on the matter.
He noted that security is a priority, promising that if it is necessary, Germany could deploy additional safety nets.
Setting Ground Rules
According to the German Interior Ministry’s earlier plans, it should be legally regulated that components are only installed in the core network if they have been checked and certified. Companies like Huawei must also assure the German government that none of its components pose a security risk to the country. In addition, Seehofer has called for creating an option to suspend the process if something changes.
"Then you have to intervene. We have to secure protection against espionage and sabotage”, he concluded.
Clash With US Over Huawei
Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Angela Merkel was about to meet with a group of top conservative lawmakers from her CDU/CSU political alliance on Thursday to discuss whether the Chinese tech-giant Huawei should be banned from participating in the national rollout of 5G technology.
The proposal was put forward by Merkel’s junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), last year. It echoed Washington’s calls to bar the company over allegations that it poses a threat to the national security of its European partners – which Huawei persistently denies. The chancellor, however, argued that no company should be barred from Germany’s 5G network, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas insisting that Berlin can “never be blackmailed” by the US, which previously threatened to reduce intelligence sharing between Berlin and Washington if Huawei is allowed in the country.
For Whom the Phone Rings
The Trump administration went after Huawei – the world’s No. 1 supplier of telecom equipment and No. 2 phone manufacturer – last year amid the escalating trade war with China. The president and his administration cited yet-unverified claims that Huawei could help the Chinese government spy on other countries and companies who use its devices. Huawei insists that it is independent of the government and that its products pose no cybersecurity risk.
Another country that, like Germany, is also expected to make a final decision soon and is facing pressure from the US is the UK. Washington earlier warned Boris Johnson’s government that granting Huawei technology access to the UK’s 5G networks would jeopardise intelligence sharing between the Five Eyes security alliance, which is comprised of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US.