Despite a dramatic threat from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday that Washington would effectively have to cut ties with countries that use Chinese-made telecommunications equipment in 5G networks – a group that may include the UK and Germany – most European capitals appear ambivalent on the issue.
Rome is no exception and continues to send contradictory signals, with a new report shedding light on a battle between two sides of the ruling coalition.
Italian daily Il Messaggero reported Friday that the lawmakers in the ruling right-wing Lega party are pushing to ban Huawei equipment, despite reassurances from deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio that contracts with the Chinese firm have already been finalized. Di Maio is a leader of the left-wing Five Star Movement, which has formed a ruling coalition with Lega.
The report comes as Lega chief and Di Maio’s fellow deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, is facing allegations that his party received financing from Moscow in a scheme detailed on Thursday by L’Espresso.
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is also weighing in on the conversation as he tries to wade back into politics, calling on the country to ostracize Chinese firms. Italia Oggi reported Thursday that Berlusconi wants to back the US challenge to China as he sees competition between Washington and Beijing as the most pressing issue of the times.
The news comes after conflicting reports several weeks ago that variously revealed Rome was planning to ban Huawei and that it was going to do nothing of the sort.
It is yet to be seen how the UK and Germany – which have both indicated they will not ban Huawei – will respond to the US warnings issued by Pompeo on Thursday.
“If a country adopts this and puts it in some of their critical information systems, we won’t be able to share information with them,” Pompeo said during an interview with Fox Business. “In some cases there’s a risk – we won’t even be able to co-locate American resources, an American embassy, an American military outpost.”