Albania has become the next Western Balkan country to pledge close coordination with the US on the development of 5G technology networks in a deal that US Secretary of State Blinken said set an important example.
By Fjori SINORUKA- BalkanInsight/
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, the US 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”.