China Threat to EU Telecoms Flagged by European Parliament

(Bloomberg) -- The European Parliament added its voice to growing Western concerns about alleged security threats posed by Chinese telecommunications companies such as Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp.

The European Union assembly stressed the need for the bloc to protect the next generation of wireless networks, known as 5G, from intruders and to bolster cybersecurity defenses in general.

In a resolution, the 28-nation Parliament “expresses deep concern about the recent allegations that 5G equipment developed by Chinese companies may have embedded backdoors that would allow manufacturers and authorities to have unauthorized access to private and personal data and telecommunications from the EU.”

The assembly “is equally concerned about the potential presence of major vulnerabilities in the 5G equipment developed by these manufacturers if they were to be installed when rolling out 5G networks in the coming years,” says the non-binding text endorsed on Tuesday in Strasbourg, France.

The EU’s increasing alarm about technology-related security risks from China follows U.S. allegations that Huawei could enable Chinese espionage and American calls for European allies to avoid partnering with the company. Western jitters have mushroomed since a 2017 Chinese law requiring organizations and citizens to support national-security investigations.

“If there’s the slightest suspicion that Trojan horses end up in critical infrastructure due to Chinese technology, all alarm bells should ring,” Markus Ferber, a European parliamentarian from Germany, said by email. “The EU has to make sure it becomes more independent from third countries when it comes to infrastructure and central technologies.”

In a separate move on Tuesday reflecting jitters in Europe over the issue, the European Commission -- the EU’s executive arm -- said it would issue a recommendation aimed at ensuring a common approach across the bloc to the security of 5G networks.

The goal, the commission said in a statement linked to a strategy paper on EU-China relations, is “to safeguard against potential serious security implications for critical digital infrastructure.”

The EU Parliament resolution cites a warning last year by the Czech cybersecurity agency about technologies provided by Huawei and ZTE. The country’s tax authority subsequently took steps to exclude the companies as potential suppliers of a system for online tax returns -- a move that Huawei challenged and that has led to the preparation of a new tender.

The text by the 751-seat assembly says European authorities should develop a certification system for 5G equipment to enhance its security.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.