BRUSSELS – China’s Huawei Technologies opened on Tuesday a cybersecurity center in the European Union’s capital, seeking to restore credibility after the US and other Western governments arrested executives from the telecommunications giant and accused it of espionage.
EU officials remained unimpressed by Huawei’s display. European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip, the bloc’s senior official overseeing digital policy, earlier in the day met Huawei Deputy Chairman Ken Hu and spoke about “legitimate security concerns that need to be addressed,” said a Commission spokesman.
Hu said at a lavish opening ceremony that the center aims to improve communication with EU regulators and customers.
“If we look at the events from the past few months, it’s clear that this facility is now more critical than ever,” he said with a short laugh. “You know what I’m saying.”
The US over recent months has urged allies not to buy Huawei equipment because of what Washington says are risks the Chinese government could gain direct access to secrets of private, corporate and government users. The US is also seeking the extradition of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou from Canada on charges that she illegally sold technology to Iran. Poland in January arrested a Huawei director on espionage charges.
Huawei and its European rivals Nokia and Ericsson are the main global suppliers of 5G equipment required for the next-generation internet and mobile phone connectivity. The European market, along with the Middle East and Africa, represent Huawei’s biggest market outside China.
Huawei’s new cybersecurity center in Brussels is near the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, which has criticized the company’s alleged espionage activities. The center will give regulators and customers information on and access to Huawei mobile phone technology, executives said.
A lofty ground-floor showroom, with couches and big screens, touts Huawei’s 5G and cloud technology. One floor up, in rooms named for Western inventors whose innovations allowed mobile communications, a team of coders analyze the company’s software to fix glitches and bugs, in coordination with over 500 other Huawei cybersecurity experts around the globe, the company said.
Still, convincing critics that Huawei’s 5G and cloud technology is safe and free from government surveillance remains an uphill battle for the company.
Ansip, the EU commissioner, met Hu at the Huawei executive’s request, said Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas. “Vice President Ansip emphasized that the EU is an open, rules-based market, open to all players who fulfill EU rules,” Schinas said. Ansip “also mentioned the need for reciprocity in terms of respective market openness,” Schinas said, referring to China’s restrictions for Western tech companies.
The Commission is exploring how to address security concerns about Huawei and other Chinese telecommunication companies. An ongoing review could effectively halt the sales of Huawei gear in Europe. The Commission on Wednesday will take a first step in that direction when it plans to discuss internally an EU-China strategy due for adoption in spring, said Schinas.
EU national leaders meeting in Brussels later this month also plan to weigh in on EU-China.