Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama At a Signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the United States of America and the Council of Ministers of Republic of Albania on 4G and 5G Security

BRUSSELS (June 14, 2021) today U.S. Secretary of State  Antony J. Blinken delivered remarks at a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States  and the Council of Ministers of Republic of Albania on 4G and 5G security.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for – first of all, for being here today, but thank you much more importantly for the work that we’ve done together.  I think we’re setting a very strong example together here today, particularly on the need to make sure that when it comes to our most sensitive technology and networks we have, we’re working with trusted vendors.  That’s particularly important now and a strong message to send out, I think.  And more broadly, I’m really grateful for the work that United States and Albanian have been able to do together in so many different areas, including the Defender 21 exercises that we did so successfully.  We’re very much looking forward to you assuming you’re seen on the United Nations Security Council.  I think there’ll be a lot of good work, I think, to do together there.  And across the board, this partnership is growing stronger, growing deeper, and we very much appreciate your leadership and helping to do that.  So thank you for today. 

PRIME MINISTER RAMA:  Thank you very much.  And for me and for us in Albania, it’s a very important moment because, as I believe you know, we have undertaken these issues on our sides this – some years, asking also the other countries in the region join, and to put all together our effort for secure – for a very secure path of communication, and to put this path of communication, of very critical services in the hands of the people of Albania – in the hands of institutions of our security forces, and to not allow – and this may be a compromise by third actors and sometimes malign actors.  So it’s – as always, a pride for Albania to stand with you and to be with the United States all the way.  So thank you very much for this and I hope that together we can convince also the other friends in the region to join in this. 

Albania is the latest country to join the queue in the region for reliable 4G and 5G networks after Prime Minister Edi Rama signed a memorandum with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Brussels on Sunday.

Without explicitly mentioning the Chinese giant, the agreement likely excludes China’s Huawei from the competition.

The deal comes a week after Romania promulgated a law that prohibits ties with China’s 5G network and after both Serbia and Kosovo committed themselves to former US President Donald Trump in September 2020 to “prohibit the use of 5G equipment supplied by untrusted vendors in their communications networks”.

Last October, under then the Trump’s administration signed a document with North Macedonia, emphasizing “the importance of encouraging the participation of reliable and trustworthy network hardware and software suppliers in 5G markets, taking into account risk profile assessments, and promoting frameworks that effectively protect 5G networks from unauthorized access or interference”.

Secretary of State Blinken said the agreement with Albania was important and sent a message to others.

“I think we’re setting a very strong example together here today, particularly on the need to make sure that when it comes to our most sensitive technology and networks we have, we’re working with trusted vendors. That’s particularly important now and a strong message to send out,” Blinken said.

He added that the partnership between the two countries was becoming stronger and that he appreciated Rama’s leadership in this.

Rama said the moment was an important one, and that he worked for this initiative for years and had also asked other countries in the region to join it.

“For me and for us, in Albania, it is a very important moment because … we have undertaken this initiative on our part for several years and asking other countries in the region to become part of that altogether, to make efforts for a secure communication corridor and put this communication corridor of very critical services in the hands of the citizens of Albania, Albanian institutions, security forces and not to allow it to be compromised by third actors who are sometimes malicious actors,” he said.

According to a National Plan for the sustainable development of digital broadband infrastructure, by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, Albania plans to implement a 5G network between 2020 and 2025.

Implementation of the 5G network was first spoken about in Albania in 2019, when the US embassy was involved in the discussions, claiming that, “China would like to capture the digital lifestyle of the Western Balkans to absorb information from them and suffocate networks of US allies”.

China’s Huawei reacted to the deal saying it had not tested anything related to 5G in Albania and had not had any contracts on that matter.

Albania’s High State Control (Audit Office), in a report in 2020 said: “Chinese products, like Japanese ones in the 1980s, are already making the big leap, from quantity without quality, to quality below cost. Under these conditions, driven by the low level of income for both the individual and the government, Albanians find it difficult to resist the temptation to flirt technologically with the Chinese. It took continued US intervention last December to remind us that as a NATO member, our priority should not be simply 5G technology, but 5G security”.

 

Source: US Department of State and the Balkan Insight wrote the original article.

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