The Commission has urged the European community to accelerate its implementation of EU 5G security guidelines, singling out Germany for special criticism over government inaction

Back in 2019, following the US banning Huawei 5G network equipment from its domestic networks, 5G network security rapidly become a political hot potato, with the Trump administation pushing the international community to implement bans of their own. Some countries, such UK, quickly followed suit in 2020, but others were more reticent to ban the Chinese vendor outright, preferring instead to bolster their individual security measures.

This led the European Commission to publish a 5G Security Toolbox in early 2020, with EU member states agreeing to implement a raft of security recommendations to mitigate the risk of so-called ‘high-risk’ vendors. This included technical security measures to identify vulnerable equipment, as well as policy suggestions around foreign direct investment, to shield critical national networks from falling under foreign influence.

By the end of 2020, periodical reports suggested that most member states were “well on track of implementing the recommended measures”, with the Commission suggesting that they should be complete implantation of the various measures by the second quarter of 2021.

Now, however, almost three years later, EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has chastised the broader EU community for failing to implement these security measures quickly enough.

“We are urging member states who have not yet imposed restrictions on high-risk suppliers to do that without delay, as a matter of urgency,” said Vestager. “A number of countries have passed legislation but they have not put it into effect […] Making it work is even better.”

One country notably singled out for individual criticism was Germany, with Vestager saying that the country had not done enough to tackle security concerns related to the 5G supply chain.

“It is not only Germany, but it is also Germany,” she said.

Historically, Vodafone Deutschland and Deutsche Telekom have been heavily reliant on Huawei for their mobile network equipment. This fact saw the country at the centre of the geopolitical tussle over Huawei in 2020, with the US government urging Berlin to ban the vendor, and the national telcos urging for restraint.

In the end, Germany declined to ban the Chinese vendor outright, but has introduced various additional security measures, including a new law last year allowing the government to intervene on mobile operators’ supply contracts where untrusted vendors were involved.

To date, however, these special powers have seen little usage.

Is the government doing enough to mitigate the threat of high-risk vendors in Germany? Find out from the experts at this year’s live Connected Germany event

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