German 5G bidders must guarantee no foreign state meddling

CDU chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Bavarian State Prime Minister and Christian Social Union (CSU) party leader Markus Soeder walk in front of a CDU logo as they attend the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party congress in Leipzig, Germany, November 23, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

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 fulfil a “clearly defined security catalogue, 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.

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.