Huawei fights back; files lawsuit against expulsion from Portugal’s 5G networks

Lawsuit sets out to ‘safeguard protection of Huawei’s legitimate interests and rights’

Telecoms giant Huawei has filed an administrative action against the Security Assessment Commission, the body that decided to expel “high risk” suppliers from 5G networks in Portugal.

Huawei Portugal is challenging the decision that prevents it from participating in the development of 5G networks in the country, writes ECO online. The case was filed at the Lisbon Administrative Court on August 31, and the company says it is “confident” that “legality” will be restored by the courts.

The case effectively pits Huawei against a State body that operates within the scope of the Higher Council for Cyberspace Security, the Prime Minister’s advisory body on cybersecurity issues, explains ECO.

At the heart of the issue is a resolution signed in May by Rear Admiral António Gameiro Marques, chairman of the Security Assessment Commission. The document establishes seven criteria that determine, in the context of 5G, whether a supplier or service provider poses a “high risk to the security of national networks and services“. Companies only have to fulfil one of these criteria to be considered “high risk” and excluded.

One of these criteria makes it possible to expel suppliers from 5G if they are based in or linked to a country that does not belong to the European Union, the OECD or NATO. This is the case in China, where Huawei has its headquarters in Shenzhen.

When questioned about this process, an official source from Huawei Portugal replied that the company “intends to safeguard the protection of its legitimate interests and legal rights, as a company legally established in Portugal, hoping to remedy the multiple violations of its rights brought about by the resolution, as well as its significant negative impact on the company and its partners”.

“Huawei Portugal is confident that the court will analyse the decision and restore legality, considering the multiple legal concerns raised in our lawsuit,” said an official source. 

“Huawei Portugal has made an indelible contribution to the country’s development for almost 20 years and remains committed to working with its partners for the benefit of the Portuguese Information and Communication Technologies ecosystem and Portuguese society as a whole,” it concludes.

Huawei doesn’t have electronic communications networks, but it does supply technology and equipment, such as aerials, providing services to operators such as MEO, owned by Altice Portugal. 

The US considers the company to be a vehicle for espionage in the service of the Chinese regime, accusations that the company has always rejected. In the European Union, the understanding is similar, ECO’s report continues.

On June 2, Jornal Económico reported – and ECO confirmed – that Huawei intended to go to court to prevent the exclusion of 5G networks

The day before, other news sources were carrying stories of China preparing ‘retaliation’ because of the decision.

Representatives of the company spoke to lawyers to explore possible avenues, including demanding compensation from the Portuguese State. However, this action is not yet expected to include a claim for compensation, and is, for the time being, just a mitigation measure on the part of the technology company.

ECO contacted the Security Assessment Commission about the administrative action brought by Huawei. An official source at the Higher Council for Cyberspace Security replied, after the news broke, that the Commission had not been notified “of any legal action brought by Huawei”, despite the fact that the action had already been publicised on the Citius Justice portal. 

The same source also revealed that telecoms operators are already “developing their respective plans for implementing the deliberations” of the Security Assessment Commission, “to be presented to Anacom”.

All operators in Portugal have already stressed Huawei will not be part of Portugal’s core 5G network. 

Expresso has added: “The issue is sensitive because it involves diplomatic relations and has geopolitical implications, which has also caused fears within the government. The country is not the first to take a similar decision, and just recently, a text published in Expresso by arbitration specialists Pacôme Ziegler and Luís Heleno Terrinha pointed out that Huawei had filed lawsuits against Sweden and the United Kingdom, which would pave the way for an identical situation with Portugal.

Source: ECO online exclusive/ Expresso