North Macedonia, Kosovo and Bulgaria signed an agreement with the United States on Friday on the security of broadband networks.
The Clean Network Initiative aims to eliminate “long-term threats to the free world’s data privacy, security, and human rights from malicious authoritarian actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party.” , according to the US State Department.
The United States is increasingly concerned about the dominance of Chinese companies in building 5G Internet networks.
The Trump administration has sharply restricted Chinese telecommunications company Huawei’s actions in the United States and urged its allies to do the same.
It claims the tech giant is a backdoor for Chinese intelligence services to conduct espionage operations through critical infrastructure, something Huawei denies.
The US Embassy in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, tweeted that the signing was “historic”, adding that Bulgaria was joining a “growing coalition of countries and companies committed to protecting their 5G networks from unreliable providers”.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said the European Union had already provided guidelines on the security of 5G networks and they should be based on fair competition and transparency.
North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev tweeted that the deal was “vital” for the country’s future prosperity.
EU-US bilateral talks on China
The signings came as senior US and EU officials launched a bilateral dialogue on China on Friday.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “welcomed the start of this dialogue as a dedicated forum for EU and US experts to discuss all issues related to China,” a statement said.
The bilateral discussions will focus on “themes such as human rights, security and multilateralism.”
The next meeting is scheduled for mid-November.
kmm/dj (Reuters, AP, dpa)