Italy considering whether to exclude Huawei from 5G: report

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy is considering whether to exclude Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies from building its 5G network, La Repubblica reported, without citing sources.

FILE PHOTO: The Huawei logo is seen on a communications device in London, Britain, January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Despite pressure from Washington, which says Huawei’s equipment could be used to spy on the West, Italy has so far not ruled the Chinese company out its network plans.

No comment was immediately available from the Italian government. Huawei, which has repeatedly denied the U.S. allegations, declined to comment.

A political source said the issue was under discussion.

“It’s being considered at government level,” the source told Reuters on Wednesday after the La Repubblica report, which said Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio met the U.S. ambassador in Rome last week for talks which included Huawei.

“The Italian government is preparing a change of course as are many of its European partners,” the newspaper said, adding that Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri and Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini had brought up the issue informally.

“Guerini is certainly the one taking the most Atlanticist line,” the political source told Reuters.

Even members of the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement, part of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s ruling coalition, who initially favoured Huawei, were rethinking, La Repubblica said.

It said Italian officials believed that even if Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden wins the November presidential election, Washington’s stance on Huawei was unlikely to change.

Last year, parliamentary security committee Copasir said Italy should consider blocking Chinese telecoms firms Huawei and ZTE from taking part in development of 5G networks.

Enrico Borghi, a member of the committee, told Reuters the fact that Italy was likely to use resources from the planned EU coronavirus Recovery Fund to develop its network meant a clear position was needed to exclude Chinese firms from the network.

“All the conditions are there to build 5G networks at European level without using Chinese technology,” he said.

Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte, James Mackenzie and Elvira Pollina; Editing by Giselda Vagnoni and Alexander Smith