Deal on Chinese scanners at Strasbourg airport sparks outcry from EU lawmakers


PARIS, Oct 14 (Reuters) – Strasbourg Airport’s deal to buy baggage scanning equipment made by Chinese company Nuctech has upset some European lawmakers over security concerns, a letter says written by three members of the European Parliament and seen by Reuters.

The letter, sent by the three MEPs to the representative of the French State for the Strasbourg region, called for the cancellation of the contract “until an independent investigation” is carried out to verify whether Nuctech’s technology does not present no risk of espionage.

“The rapid development of Nuctech raises concerns about the risks of adopting Chinese technology in our border security systems,” the three MPs — Bart Groothuis, Nathalie Loiseau, Reinhard Bütikofer — wrote in the letter, quoting European legislators and members of the European Commission among those affected.

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Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament, as well as the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.

“My main concern is not about the backdoors of these Chinese products, as any software update can trigger this, but the reliance on a state-owned company which is bound by China’s Intelligence Act of 2017” , Groothius said in an email to Reuters, citing China’s cybersecurity law that requires companies to store data in the country and accept security reviews.

“Strasbourg Airport will depend on Chinese nationals for innovation, maintenance and technical support,” said Groothius, a member of the liberal Renew Europe political group in the European Parliament and a former cybersecurity expert for the Dutch Ministry of Defence.

Groothius said the letter was sent on October 10.

Nuctech, which is partly state-owned, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the French prefect of the Strasbourg region, Josiane Chevalier, did not respond to requests for comment.

Nuctech’s technology, which includes X-ray scanning equipment and sensors for ports and airports, has been blacklisted by the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security, Commerce, in 2020.

Strasbourg Airport CEO Renaud Paubelle told Reuters in an interview that the airport signed a contract in early October with French distributor DETEKT’IN for the supply and maintenance of Nuctech equipment.

Paubelle said Nuctech’s products were preferred over other bidders, including European and American, following a competitive bidding process.

“We chose the best offer, technically and financially,” he said, adding that any cancellation of the contract could lead to litigation and breach fees.

“I’m actually surprised by the fuss the purchase of this type of equipment has caused in Strasbourg,” Paulelle added, insisting that Nuctech’s equipment had been reviewed and approved by the DGAC.

“I regret the fact that we did not have a European offer to match and that we would have been very happy to be able to select.”

Nuctech’s equipment is already present in other French airports, such as Bordeaux.

The DGAC did not respond to requests for comment.

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Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Additional report by Michel Rose. Editing by Jane Merriman

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