LEIPZIG, Germany (Reuters) – Bidders for German 5G rollout contracts must guarantee the network will be free of foreign state influence, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats agreed on Saturday, stopping short of singling out China’s Huawei.
After a heated debate, delegates at the Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) party congress backed a motion stipulating that 5G suppliers must fulfill a “clearly defined security catalog, which includes the exclusion of influence by a foreign state”.
Some CDU lawmakers want China’s Huawei, which the United States fears could be used by Beijing for spying, to be excluded from 5G contracts in the country. Merkel wants security standards to be the yardstick, rather than singling out any one company.
The Shenzhen-based company has repeatedly denied the allegations by Washington, which has pressured its allies to shut out Huawei and in May imposed export controls on the company, hobbling its smartphone business and raising questions over whether it can maintain its market lead.
All of the telecoms operators in Germany, which has close trading ties with China, are customers of Huawei and have warned that banning the company would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to the launch of 5G networks.
The motion approved on Saturday was a compromise from CDU officials that watered down a proposal by a group of delegates who wanted the exclusion of suppliers “under the influence of undemocratic states” – a thinly veiled reference to China.
As the senior party in Merkel’s ruling coalition, the CDU motion carries weight and will likely make its way into government policy. The approved proposal also called for parliament to be included in decision making on the 5G rollout.
Norbert Roettgen, the head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee who initiated the original motion, said the revised wording was still clearly aimed at Huawei.
“It must be clear: we can’t entrust the German 5G network to the Chinese state, the Communist leadership,” he said, adding that this was a question of “national security and European ambition.”
Merkel told the CDU’s executive committee on Thursday that Huawei components accounted for about 70% of Germany’s existing mobile network and that Ericsson’s (ERICb.ST) and Nokia’s (NOKIA.HE) share would rise in future, top party officials said.
Reporting by Paul Carrel, Andreas Rinke and Alexander Ratz; Editing by Kirsten Donovan