Reding’s comments coincide with Chinese telecom giant Huawei announcing on Tuesday it would set up manufacturing hubs in Europe, as it tries to fight off US pressure on Member States to stop it from operating.
“Huawei is more committed to Europe than ever before,” said Abraham Liu, Huawei’s Chief Representative to the EU institutions, during a Chinese New Year reception in Brussels.
"That's why we have decided we want to set up manufacturing bases in Europe - so that we can truly have 5G for Europe made in Europe."
The announcement that Huawei plans to start building factories in Europe comes just days after the EU recommended that Member States could ban telecoms operators deemed a security risk from critical parts of 5G infrastructure.
Some, notably US President Trump, whose security concerns about Huawei are well known, have called for the company to be barred from the next generation communications network.
Germany has delayed its decision on a possible ban and a ban on Huawei would ultimately be up to Member States.
Speaking at the same event on Tuesday, Reding, also a former MEP, said that 5G technology and the 5G sector can be a “game changer.”
“The aim is not and should not be to ostracise companies but, rather, to ensure that everyone abides by the same rules and standards. With the roll out of 5G this is the way we must do things and Europe must take the lead on this” Viviane Reding
She told the audience, “That is why we need speedy implementation of such technology. Any slowdown would also result in a slowdown of the digital economy. We must not wait but move forward quickly.”
Adapting Bill Clinton’s famous phrase, “it’s the economy, stupid” Reding said, “It’s the application, stupid.”
She welcomed the EU’s “5G security toolbox”, published last week, saying this will “make security a guarantee for citizens and Member States.”
“This – security – is an absolute basic.”
Reding added, “We must not compromise on security or trust. This is key. It is all about rules and the EU, with its 5G toolbox, is right to emphasise this. The aim is not and should not be to ostracise companies but, rather, to ensure that everyone abides by the same rules and standards. With the roll out of 5G this is the way we must do things and Europe must take the lead on this.”
She added, “5G will have a big impact on European societies. This impact needs to be understood properly so that the right policy responses can be formulated in good time.”
Liu outlined the future challenges facing Europe’s digital agenda, saying, “Huawei is more committed to Europe than ever before. We are looking forward to our next 20 years here. That’s why we have decided we want to set up manufacturing bases in Europe – so that we can truly have 5G for Europe made in Europe.”
“We have decided we want to set up manufacturing bases in Europe - so that we can truly have 5G for Europe made in Europe” Abraham Liu, Huawei
He also said the company is “reassured” by the UK government’s confirmation last week that it can continue working, albeit in a limited way, on 5G rollout in the UK.
“This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”
He said, “As a company all we ask is certainty and this UK decision and also the EU’s security toolbox makes the situation much clearer.”
But, after what he admitted had been a “challenging” past 12 months, he said, “At the same time we are also prepared for further disturbance in the future.”
Liu in his speech acknowledged that the tech world "is increasingly entangled with geopolitical issues, trade negotiations, and diplomatic dialogue between nations.”
"Politically-motivated suspicion does not address the challenges ahead," he added in a veiled admonishment to Washington.
He also urged Europe, the US and China to "invest more, in political discussion, to talk about collaboration and common rules.”
The United States sees the company as a potential threat to cybersecurity and fears it would facilitate cyber espionage by the Chinese government, to which it is said to have close links. The company has strongly denied such suggestions.
It employs over 13,000 staff and runs two regional centres and 23 research centres in 12 EU countries.
Huawei is one of the world's leading network technology suppliers, and one of the few - along with European telecom companies Nokia and Ericsson - capable of building 5G networks.
According to the EU’s latest Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, Huawei has maintained its place among the world’s top five R&D investors in the world, reflecting “significant” investment.