The US Charge D’Affaires Leyla Moses-Ones has commented on the impending upgrade of Albania’s 4G network to 5G when she spoke at the Western Balkans Conference earlier this week.
During the event, she broached the topic of 5G by stating that “the 5G revolution is upon us.” She continued by saying that “nations like China that desire to seize the digital lifeline of the Western Balkans to siphon information from, and choke the networks of US allies.”
“Albania is already doing the right thing by exercising vigilance by protecting its networks. Again, some things in Albania are simply not for sale,” she said.
Her comments are believed to be in reference to the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, which is currently engaged in controversy around the world. In January, Polish intelligence services raided the company’s local premises and arrested the in-country Sales Director on charges of espionage.
Just one month before, CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on behalf of the US authorities for fraud and avoiding US sanctions against Iran and North Korea. She was accused of deceiving international banks into clearing transactions with Iran, relating to the provision of equipment that can be used for mass public surveillance.
It has also faced numerous lawsuits in the country for intellectual property theft and IP infringement. Then at the World Economic Forum, George Soros called the company “a mortal danger” to democracies and democratic countries.
“Instead of letting ZTE and Huawei off lightly, [the US] needs to crack down on them,” Soros said. “If these companies came to dominate the 5G market, they would present an unacceptable security risk for the rest of the world.”
He claims that China is using companies like Huawei to collect data on countries and citizens and then send them back to Beijing. In fact, Chinese law dictates that companies operating in other countries are obliged to hand over information and to cooperate with the intelligence services. While China denies that Huawei would do this, the fact remains that by law they are required to if asked.
Giving Huawei access to the 5G networks of entire nations has caused outrage and widespread concern.
In the UK, British security officials have warned that despite being asked to do so, Huawei has “failed” to fix a number of serious issues that could leave civilian security compromised. According to the National Cyber Security Centre, significant threats had still not been addressed and there was “no credible plan to address the issue”.
They warned that allowing Huawei to participate in the British telecommunications network was “at best naive, and at worst irresponsible.”
Huawei is currently banned, restricted, or being debated in a growing number of countries due to concerns over spying and security. These include Australia, UK, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland.
The EU has been mulling over proposals that would effectively ban Huawei equipment for next-generation mobile networks in the bloc.
In addition to this, Facebook is no longer allowing pre-installation of its apps on Huawei phones, and the University of Oxford has said it will no longer accept donations or sponsorships from the company.
Albania recently hosted a conference that was attended by Huawei and Beijing Normal University. Huawei also announced an education programme in Albania where they will train 1000 IT talents, donate 1000 books to university libraries, and give 1000 toys to children’s hospitals.