The European Union’s Strategic Outlook on China: Security Aspects of the 5G Networks


On March 12, 2019, the European Council and European Commission presented the joint strategic outlook of the European Union on China. This text is based on the main aspects of that official document, focusing on the matter of cybersecurity in the 5G networks. China is recognized as the EU’s second-biggest trading partner, behind only the United States. Hence, the challenges and opportunities presented by the relationship with China must be identified. China is a global player with leading technological power; however, this leads to greater responsibilities for upholding the international order, as well as greater reciprocity, non-discrimination, and openness of its system. It is a cooperative partner, but in some cases also a strong competitor. Thus, the need to find a balance between the political and commercial relationships. In a near future, China will no longer be seen as a developing country.

With regard to competitiveness and leveling the playing field, the document mentions measures to be adopted by the EU regarding the distortive effects of foreign state ownership and state financing of foreign companies on the EU internal market. It also mentions the need to build a strategy related to artificial intelligence to foster investments, with a human-centric and trustworthy approach, a key condition for acceptance of the use of technologies.

Another theme is strengthening the security of critical infrastructure and the technological base. There are concerns regarding the risks to the EU’s security represented by foreign investment in strategic sectors of the European economy through acquisitions of critical assets, technologies and infrastructure, as well as the supply of critical equipment. We highlight the matter of 5G digital infrastructure, used to provide mobile and wireless communication services. 5G has the potential to connect billions of objects and systems, including sensitive information and communication technology systems. Hence, the European Union has several legal instruments, such as the Network and Information Security Directive, the Cybersecurity Act, and the European Electronic Communications Code, for protection against cyberattacks. The EU will support multilateral efforts to promote free and secure data flows based on strong privacy protections for personal data.

On the other hand, the new Regulation for foreign investments will enter into force in April 2019 and fully apply from November 2020 Therefore, the Member States must apply the rules of such Regulation on foreign investment to control the security risks posed by foreign investment in critical assets, technologies and infrastructure. To avoid the distortions resulting from foreign state ownership and state financing of companies, the European Commission must identify such distortions by the end of 2019. Given the potential risks to the security of the digital infrastructure, there must be a strategy for the security of the 5G networks. Thus, the European Commission will issue a recommendation to be followed by the European Council. As for the security threats caused by foreign investments in critical assets, technologies and infrastructure, the Member States must ensure the effective implementation of the Regulation of direct foreign investments.

Artigo publicado no Portal Jurídico Migalhas em 05/04/2019 (clique aqui).