The EU is recommending risk mitigation rather than outright banning in its latest 5G security advice to members.

For some reason the army of eurocrats that will have been involved in the drafting of these guidelines decided they need to be referred to as a toolbox. The purpose of this seems to be to emphasise the flexible nature of the new 5G security rules and to try to exaggerate the amount of autonomy member states have from their Brussels masters.

Absent from this toolbox, however, are a pair of scissors that could be used to cut ties with all ‘high risk’ (i.e. Chinese) telecoms vendors entirely. Nowhere that we can see do the words ‘Huawei’ or ‘China’ appear in this otherwise well-stocked toolbox, which seems to be a diplomatic concession. The closest we get is vague talk of ‘country-specific’ considerations.

“We can do great things with 5G,” said Margrethe Vestager, EVP for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age. “The technology supports personalised medicines, precision agriculture and energy grids that can integrate all kinds of renewable energy. This will make a positive difference. But only if we can make our networks secure. Only then will the digital changes benefit all citizens.”

“A genuine Security Union is one which protects Europe’s citizens, companies and critical infrastructure,” said Margaritis Schinas, VP for Promoting our European Way of Life. “5G will be a ground-breaking technology but it cannot come at the expense of the security of our internal market. The toolbox is an important step in what must be a continuous effort in the EU’s collective work to better protect our critical infrastructures.”

“Europe has everything it takes to lead the technology race,” said Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market. “Be it developing or deploying 5G technology – our industry is already well off the starting blocks. Today we are equipping EU Member States, telecoms operators and users with the tools to build and protect a European infrastructure with the highest security standards so we all fully benefit from the potential that 5G has to offer.”

Some of those ridiculous job titles are just downright embarrassing and clear evidence of the complacent, navel-gazing leviathan the EU has become. Nonetheless they’re not too proud to wait for their most loathed soon-to-be ex-member to make its move before they do. There seems to be little in this toolbox that doesn’t echo the recently announced UK approach, including keeping high risk vendors out of the core.

So once more the US has failed to get its own way on Huawei. It’s starting to look like Trump has seriously overplayed his hand by insisting on an outright ban and, unless he wants to cease meaningful cooperation with the whole of Europe, will need to find some kind of face-saving climb down. Having said that, who is going to notice if the US fails to deliver on its threats?


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