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Open letter to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
Spain Created: 26 Oct 2016
The EU Ombudsman recognizes for the first time a conflict of interest with telecommunication companies in a European consultative institution aiming to avoid prevention and comprehensive recognition of electrohypersensitivity (EHS).

The more than 40 undersigned EU platforms and associations defending the EHS people's rights of electrohypersensitive people (EHS) and fighting against electromagnetic pollution, welcome the fact that the EU Ombudsman (1) recognizes and seeks to remedy the conflicts of interest and the irregularities permitted by the European Economic and Social committee (EESC). This mismanagement has prevented the vote and the approval of the provided Opinion on electromagnetic hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields exposure in the plenary session on 21 January 2015. After Emily O’Reilly’s recommendation, we consider null and void the negationist counter-opinion approved instead.

The non-voted Opinion in the EESC plenary

The EESC's Section for Transports, Energy, Infrastructures and Society of Information (TEN) adopted a previous Opinion on 7 January 2015 (2) after a laborious process (6 months of consultations and discussions, including a public hearing (3)) led by one of its members, Bernardo Hernández Bataller (General Secretary of the Spanish Association of Communication Users). That opinion, which followed the line of caution initiated by other European institutions (4) and health agencies of several Union countries, warned of the potential danger of electromagnetic radiation and recognized electrosensitivity together with the rights of the people who are suffering it:

- It calls for the precautionary principle, aiming to minimize the risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) in general and their social costs, by reducing exposure levels considering non-thermal biological effects (not covered by the current limits).

- It claims for a comprehensive recognition (health, labour and social) of electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome in relation to EMF, including enabling "white areas" (places free of radiation).

- It recommends minimizing the risks linked to the exposure to artificial electromagnetic radiation by implementing specific protection measures for the most vulnerable groups, such as giving priority to the wired internet connection instead of Wi-Fi in education.

We consider that the original TEN Opinion achieved a commendable balance between the rights at issue: the right to health protection of the general population (with emphasis on the most vulnerable sectors), the lost Fundamental Human Rights of EHS people. On the other side, reflecting on other issues like the users freedom of communication, and free enterprise in the industry concerned.

EESC’s maladministration and the lobbies’ acting in the voting process

At the EESC plenary session of 21 January 2015 it was narrowly approved a complete amendment (5) irregularly presented (just a day before the vote), by the negationist Richard Adams. Adams was a British member of the group III (which represents social organizations at the EESC) within the category "consumers and the environment". He presented the “counter-opinion” in his capacity as "consultant on ethical, social and environmental issues" hiding his obvious conflict of interest (6) to the EESC. The English charity that he ran was participating in projects funded by a conglomerate of industries of electricity and telephony (eg Vodafone), while advising one of the five more important power and gas companies in Europe, involved in smart grids and smart meters using radio frequencies for data transmission.

The European Ombudsman recognizes maladministration in the EESC

The UE Ombudsman recommendation of 19 September 2016 (1), nine months after the complaint of the signatory organizations, recognizes maladministration in the EESC:

- Because: "providing members with only one day, or even less time, to examine not just one or more proposed amendments, but a counter-opinion that goes against an opinion already discussed and agreed at section level, carries the inherent risk that the members may not always have sufficient time to look at all the relevant information

-Because: by allowing an undeclared conflict of interest affecting the "transparency" of the process, it undermines “the EESC's legitimacy, as a body representing diverse interests in EU society, would be undermined the legitimacy of the EESC as a body representing various interests of the society of the Union".

-Because: by allowing the vote of a counter-opinion “unwilling to take any action or assume any responsibility as regards this matter” when it should “ensure that the different interests of its members are public and widely known". "The Ombudsman thus considers that the EESC's position in this case fell short of the obligation to have in place measures that ensure, in all cases, that the work of its members and of its sections is actually carried out openly and transparently”.

The Social Organizations’ request to the EESC to act accordingly

Although, contradictorily, the European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, does not provide for the annulment of the counter-opinion, the undersigning European citizens' organizations declare that the irregularly presented and voted “counter-opinion” is not our Opinion, being sufficiently evidenced the lack of guarantees and transparency required in the process.

For this reason, we request the Economic and Social Committee:

- The urgent start of the relevant work for a new Opinion on electromagnetic hypersensitivity with the cooperation and participation of independent physicians, scientists and European social organizations, including European associations defending EHS people's rights to ensure the voice of people suffering with electrosensitivity can be heard.

- The resignation of Mr Richard Adams (7) as external delegate (Category III - "Various Interests") of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI) of the EESC, given his totally "inappropriate" attitude and lack of transparency within the EESC and the existence of a "conflict of interest" according to the EU Ombudsman opinion.

25 October 2016

Press contacts in [name of the country]:

- On behalf of the more than 40 signatory EU platforms and associations of the "Open letter to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)”
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Source: PECCEM, via John Weigels newsletter, 25 Oct 2016

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