“Human rights issue:” Washington increases the pressure on Berlin with the 5G decision
More and more EU countries are excluding the Chinese provider Huawei from the 5G network. Now the US government is speaking to the conscience of the hesitant Federal Republic
Source: Handelsblatt Author: Moritz Koch
[From original German via Google Translate]
AUGUST 17, 2020
Berlin Five days, four countries: on his tour through Eastern and Central Europe, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed ahead with his initiative to curb the Chinese influence on data networks. “The tide is on the Chinese Communist Party and its attempts to curtail the freedoms of all of us,” said Pompeo as he signed an agreement in Slovenia that resulted in a ban on Chinese technology supplier Huawei.
Pompeo avoided Germany, of all places, which has long been the USA’s most important ally in Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel has so far shown no interest in the American initiative for “clean networks.” Together with Economics Minister Peter Altmaier, the CDU politician is sticking to her stance not to exclude any providers per se – not even Chinese ones.
That is why Pompeo is now sending its State Secretary Keith Krach to convey a message to the federal government shortly before the decision on the role of Chinese providers in the German 5G network: that Germany is in danger of isolating itself within Europe.
“This is about a German decision, we respect that,” says Krach in an interview with the Handelsblatt. “But I would point out that most of the countries around Germany have joined our initiative for clean networks.” In fact, countries such as Poland, Denmark, Great Britain, and most recently France, Romania and Slovenia have distanced themselves from the controversial Chinese network supplier Huawei.
Noise is diplomatic, it does not threaten, but speaks to the Germans in conscience. This differs greatly from the brute rhetoric of the former US ambassador Richard Grenell, who painted the ghost of the end of the secret service cooperation with the Americans on the wall should Huawei components find their way into the German 5G network.
“Human dignity is inviolable”
Krach invokes the Basic Law in his plea for “clean networks”: “What it is about is in Article 1 of the German constitution,” he says: “Human dignity is inviolable.” Huawei is the “backbone of the Chinese surveillance state.” and therefore jointly responsible for the oppression of minorities and those who criticize the regime.
In addition, the former Silicon Valley manager recalls allegations by the US judiciary that Huawei stole intellectual property from Telekom subsidiary T-Mobile. Krach says: “I have always admired Germany for implementing the highest digital trust standards worldwide. We hope that Germany will now defend these standards.”
Huawei “strongly rejects the accusations that have been repeatedly made without any evidence.” A company spokesman said that Huawei and T-Mobile had already settled their disputes in 2017 and emphasized: “We respect the laws of every country and maintain strict compliance management in order to ensure compliance with legal requirements in all countries.”
The federal government has been debating for almost two years what the security regulations for the 5G network should look like. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Chancellery want to prevent the regulations from being formulated in such a way that they pave the way to a de facto exclusion of Huawei. However, this is exactly the goal of the Federal Foreign Office, the SPD parliamentary group and a group of Union members around the CDU foreign politician Norbert Röttgen.
The security catalog published last week by the Federal Office for Information Security and the Federal Network Agency avoids the crucial question: Can providers from authoritarian states be considered trustworthy even though they do not have the rule of law to defend themselves against the influence of security organs?
Criticism comes from the German middle class. “We are shocked by this incomplete draft of the security catalog,” says Ulrich Herfurth from the Association of Family Entrepreneurs. “This way, his name would turn into a farce.” The family entrepreneurs demand that technology suppliers “who are under the possible influence of autocratic regimes” are excluded from network expansion.
Great expectations for 5G
After the summer break, the federal government wants to present a new IT security law that should finally clarify whether Huawei is subject to special restrictions when setting up the 5G network. There are great expectations associated with 5G: The new, super-fast and stable mobile communications standard is intended to bring self-driving cars to the streets and steer robots through factories. But the increasing interconnectedness of society increases cyber risks. Therefore, security is even more important than in the previous 4G network.
Huawei components have so far played an important role in the networks of the three major German wireless service providers Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefónica. The European companies Ericsson and Nokia could be considered as replacements. “Who do you trust?” Asks Krach. “Do you trust European providers? Or do you trust a company that enables a Big Brother surveillance state?”
For the US government, the campaign against Huawei was just the beginning of a comprehensive economic policy offensive against China’s growing influence on digital space. The US State Department recently announced that it would also act against Chinese apps, cloud services and internet cables. Some experts warn that the world could break into two technological spheres: one dominated by the US and one dominated by China.
How the German debate will end is open. The supporters of the Chancellor in the Bundestag are unimpressed by the American initiatives. “The American rhetoric on this issue is more than regrettable,” says Tankred Schipanski, digital policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group. Germany and the European Union jointly developed a “differentiated position on the expansion of the 5G network.” Americans’ black-and-white thinking falls short.