By Vesna Bernardic
Zagreb, Aug 13 (efe-epa).- Excluding Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from Europe’s ultra-high-speed wireless 5G networks is one of the goals of the top United States diplomat’s current four-nation tour of Central and Eastern Europe.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notched a small victory in that campaign with the signing of a joint declaration on “5G Clean Network Security” with NATO ally Slovenia.
“Free nations must work together to confront authoritarian threats,” Pompeo said in a press conference in the Slovenian tourist town of Bled. “It is absolutely critical that every nation makes a good, sovereign decision about how the private information of its citizens is going to be handled.”
He made those remarks, aired on live television, after he and Slovenian counterpart Anze Logar signed the joint 5G declaration.
The document does not explicitly mention China or Huawei but it is clear the text was singling out the Asian giant.
Pompeo said in the press conference that the two nations want to be sure that the countries installing advanced technological infrastructure are not facilitating “ready, easy, automatic mandatory access for their national security system,” the US secretary of state said.
The two nations also issued a statement about the declaration, which has not yet been made public.
“To promote a vibrant and robust 5G ecosystem, the United States and Slovenia believe that a rigorous evaluation of suppliers and supply chains should take into account the rule of law; the security environment; ethical supplier practices; and a supplier’s compliance with security standards and best practices,” the statement read.
Washington also has reached similar agreements with the Czech Republic and other countries as it seeks an edge over Beijing in their battle for control over that fifth generation of wireless communications technology.
The United Kingdom, meanwhile, announced last month that all Huawei 5G equipment must be removed from the country’s wireless infrastructure by 2027, citing security concerns.
Huawei denies that the Chinese government installs backdoors into its systems for espionage purposes and had sought to counter the US’s moves in Slovenia by offering to enter into a “non-spying agreement” with that country.
That company said Thursday that the US-Slovenian bilateral declaration was contrary to the principle of a European Union-wide approach to cybersecurity and will not impede cybercriminality.
Another of the objectives of Pompeo’s four-nation visit is to reduce Moscow’s influence in Central Europe, particularly in terms of that region’s dependence on Russian natural gas.
The US strongly opposes a pipeline that is being built by a company owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom and is to be used to transport natural gas under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany; Washington has even threatened to impose sanctions on companies helping Russia complete that project.
European nations have slammed the tariff threat and that issue figures to be a point of tension on Friday in Austria, the next stop on Pompeo’s European tour.
Separately, Pompeo hailed Slovenia’s openness to greater US investment in its energy sector and noted the potential construction of a new nuclear plant near the eastern town of Krsko, where an existing power station built by US company Westinghouse now stands.
In that regard, he said it is important that European countries opt for clean, safe and diversified energy sources instead of relying on Russia.
Pompeo met Thursday behind closed doors with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, a professed admirer of US President Donald Trump.
In a joint press conference, Jansa said the US is the only force in the Western world capable of confronting the danger of hybrid attacks involving cyber and biological weapons, electromagnetic pulse attacks and the use of conventional warfare.