HomeMobile EuropeFury in EU after Belgian comms service provider wins €1.2 billion TESTA contract 

    Fury in EU after Belgian comms service provider wins €1.2 billion TESTA contract 


    BT Global Services Belgium is now being blocked from 8 year job

    The European Commission is under fire for awarding a telecoms service contract to a European telecom service which was judged to be the best telecom service provider in an open competitive tender for a telecom service provider. Now, according to anonymous sources known to Politico magazine, the EC is being lobbied to find a way of delaying, cancelling and even dishonouring the contract. 

    The trouble began when the Commission put out a tender for the management of its Trans-European Services for Telematics between Administrations (TESTA). The TESTA service must be a fully private backbone network that preserves the integrity of communications through high standards of confidentiality and privacy. It links up EU agencies and bodies across the Continent, from the Commission in Brussels to the likes of Europol, the EU’s cybersecurity agency ENISA, or the European Defence Agency.

    The network connects more than 750 public entities and is designed for “sensitive pan-European information exchanges.” The previous contract was held by Deutsche Telekom, and several EU-headquartered firms had been in the running to win the newest contract, the EC insiders confirmed. But in a shock development, the best candidate for the tender was adjudged to be a belgian operator, BT Global Services Belgium.

    Asa a subsidiary of a British telco, BT Global Services, the Belgium based operator was accused of being a privacy and security threat and a compromise to the EU’s broader ambitions for digital sovereignty. The choice of a non-EU company sparked particular security unease among European telcos that had tried to win the bid but failed to convince the Commission to pick their project, according to Politico.

    “The Commission can’t fulfil its ambitions for strategic autonomy when bureaucratic loopholes allow for non-EU countries with a history of abusing privacy to benefit from multibillion contracts,” said an anonymous source. The source argued that the Belgian subsidiary of BT Global Services, though staffed by Belgians, will be a danger as it manages the transmission of very sensitive data being sent between public bodies that are paid for by EU citizens. 

    “Risking the wider exposure of this information is perilous,” the person added. The claims were supported by two other anonymous individuals who had lost out in the tender process. One accused the EC of hypocrisy. “At a time in which the commission is pitching its objective of strategic autonomy, it is outsourcing the management of sensitive communications to third countries.”

    For those that supported Brexit, this proves that you can leave the EU but your companies can still cream off billion-euro EU contracts, the source complained. The provision of services had been due to commence last year but had been delayed, and is now likely to begin later this year. The term of the contract is eight years and is worth a €1.2 billion. Neither BT nor the EC offered any comment.

    Politico said the UK’s track record in intrusive espionage and surveillance programmes was the problem. The UK’s membership of the Five Eyes security alliance led to its involvement in the United States’ Echelon surveillance programme, which seeks to monitor global data traffic, including political targets, through satellite transmissions, as well as internet and telephone lines. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said in a ruling in 2018 that British authorities had violated privacy rights in its mass surveillance programme, as well as having unlawfully shared data with global partners.