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Europe calls for facts not fears in Huawei security row

BARCELONA (Reuters) – the Facts not fears should decide the future of telecom network security in Europe, with industry leaders and policy chiefs said this week, brushing off US calls for a ban on Chinese vendors.

Europe has become the largest battlefield in an AMERICAN campaign to rid West networks of Chinese telecom equipment, with Washington accuses Huawei of spying for Beijing, allegations the company has repeatedly denied.

Mobile operators warn that a general prohibition lead to a delay of the next-generation 5G connections per year and comments from the world’s second largest mobile operator Vodafone and European officials at this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona suggest a more cautious reaction is likely to be.

“You see a messy, essentially managed response that will likely vary in detail from country to country,” says Forrester analyst Frank Gillett. “In the end it is about using and managing the risks of Huawei, as well as any other vendor, but especially Huawei.”

The safety concerns are particularly acute because of the beginning of 5G, with the operators now make decisions that will apply to the future of mobile networks in the building to bring super-fast speeds for everything from computer gaming to medical surgery.

Huawei chairman Guo Ping met with the government and the business community in Barcelona to give reassurances in the face of the U.S. allegations, people with knowledge of the matter said.

“Let the experts decide whether networks are secure or not. The U.S. security charges of our 5G has no evidence, nothing,” Guo told congress on Tuesday.

His comments echoed those of Vodafone boss Nick Read, who on Monday for the United States to share any evidence it had about the Huawei, while the European Commission warned against “premature decisions based on a partial analysis of the facts.”

LISTENING MODE

The officials of the V. S., but insisted that behind the scenes in Barcelona, the European governments were more and more listen to Washington post on Huawei.

“We have been very successful in convincing these governments to work together with us to think about this kind of threat for their future infrastructure,” Robert L. Strayer, the AMERICAN Ministry of foreign affairs and ambassador for cyber and international communications, told reporters.

Strayer repeated AMERICAN claims that the security problems with the Huawei center around China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, which determines that Chinese organizations and citizens shall, in accordance with the law, support, collaborate, and cooperate in national intelligence work.”

Washington has made progress with the European allies due to a series of face-to-face on the sidelines of the congress, another U.S. government official said, adding that the problem would probably be managed on a case-by-case basis.

“Europe is very rarely speaks with one voice, and I do not see that this is a place where Europe is speaking with one voice,” the official said.

‘UPHILL BATTLE’

The concerns about Huawei have already convinced some Western countries to bar or limit the company’s access to their markets, but also in Europe is divided.

The Czech Republic and Poland, where a Huawei executive was arrested on espionage charges in January, have worried that, while Britain has said that it can manage risks.

“We have to understand the opportunities and threats of China’s technological offer,” Jeremy Fleming, head of the british GCHQ signals intelligence service, said this week.

Intelligence and industry officials say that the British conclusion has helped to reassure a number of European governments, in part due to the uk’s membership of the Five Eyes sharing of intelligence group with the United States.

Washington has seen at the Mobile World Congress as an opportunity to counteract this, and sent a delegation to brief governments, ” she said.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Huawei Technologies in front of the German headquarters of the Chinese telecommunications group in Düsseldorf, Germany, February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang rattay/File Photo

Huawei responded by branding escalators and delegate lanyards with red-sparked logo, and the unveiling of a new state-of-the-art foldable smartphone in an attempt to restore its status as one of the leading technology giant.

Paul Triolo, head of geo-technology at research firm Eurasia Group, said that the United States faced “an uphill battle” to convince the telecom industry to ditch Huawei.

“That’s a really difficult case to make to the industry who wants to hear about the hard security concerns and trying to mitigate,” he said.

Additional reporting by Isla Binnie, Douglas Busvine and Paul Sandle; Editing by Alexander Smith

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