By Rob Noel
Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach joined Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev, and Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti to sign new memoranda of understanding (MOUs) on 5G security, Oct. 28. With these MOUs, all three nations joined the Clean Network, a growing coalition of more than 50 countries and 170 telecommunication companies that refuse to allow their 5G networks to be compromised by untrusted vendors.
The world is waking up to the dangers posed by the Chinese Communist Party and its sponsored telecom companies, Huawei and ZTE. The Clean Network is the Department of State’s answer to this danger. By signing the 5G security MOUs, these leaders acknowledged that increasing amounts of data will traverse 5G networks, and that protecting these networks from disruption or manipulation is vital to their national and economic security. It is also vital to establishing trust.
“Trust is the most powerful word in any language. It is the basis of every relationship—personal, business, or otherwise. You buy from people you trust. You partner with people you trust,” said Krach at the signing.
As the United States works with Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Kosovo to support 5G telecommunications security, American diplomats are determined to keep trust at the center of all they do. The signing of these MOUs was a step toward that goal, requiring many hours of work behind the scenes.
“Embassy Sofia had been negotiating the text of the 5G agreement for over a year,” said Marina Grayson from Embassy Sofia. “Under Secretary Krach’s visit was the impetus the Bulgarian government needed to finalize the text.”
When Embassy Pristina learned that Krach would be traveling to the region, it accelerated its time-table to execute an MOU with the government of Kosovo, weeks ahead of schedule. With less than 72-hours notice and support from Embassy Skopje, Embassy Pristina was able to schedule a signing ceremony in Macedonia. U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett and the embassy’s information officer traveled from Pristina to support and witness the ceremony. Prime Minister Hoti used the opportunity to reiterate his government’s commitment to fully implementing the Sept. 4 Washington Agreements, one of which is to prohibit the use of equipment provided by untrusted vendors in Kosovo’s communication networks. The addition of the Kosovo MOU meant that Krach could sign three separate MOUs in two Western Balkan countries in less than 8 hours.
Rob Noel is a speechwriter and senior advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.