The October plenary of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an opinion recognising the value of electronic communications infrastructure while highlighting the potential risks.
The European Commission should move forward in the process of assessing the multi-sectoral impact of new 5G and 6G technologies. Tools and measures are needed to address risks and vulnerabilities. In the opinion drafted by Dumitru Fornea and adopted by the assembly in the October plenary session, the EESC takes a firm stand, and notes that social, health and environmental issues need to be examined, involving citizens and all relevant actors, in spite of the fact that the debate on the deployment of 5G networks has turned into a controversial, political discussion.
Speaking on the sidelines of the plenary, Mr Fornea said:
Rapid digitisation and development of electronic communications has a strong impact on the economy and society at large. Through the responsible use of these technologies, humanity has a historic chance to build a better society. Nevertheless, without due diligence and democratic control, our communities might face serious challenges in the administration of these technological systems in the future.
The pandemic has shown that electronic communications infrastructure plays an important role in society and can greatly improve citizens' quality of life, with a direct impact on fighting poverty. For example, 5G technology presents an enormous opportunity to improve human health services through the development of telemedicine and by improving access to medical care.
However, potential danger needs to be continuously assessed. For this reason, the EESC recommends allocating European and national funds to more in-depth multidisciplinary research and impact studies focused on both humans and the environment, and to disseminating these results in order to educate the public and decision-makers.
In addition, the Committee proposes that the European Commission consults citizens and civil society organisations and, through the involvement of all relevant public institutions, feeds into the decision-making process with respect to the societal and ecological impact of mobile electronic communications.
In the EESC's view, the EU needs an independent European body with up-to-date methodologies, in line with the current technological context and adopting a multidisciplinary approach, in order to establish guidelines for the protection of the general public and workers in the event of exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic radiation.
All radio frequency transmission stations and the frequency bands on which they operate should be inventoried and this information published for better territorial management and the protection of citizens' interests, particularly those of vulnerable groups, such as children, pregnant women, chronically ill persons, the elderly and electro-hypersensitive people.
Electromagnetic pollution should be monitored on the basis of a rigorous interinstitutional and interdisciplinary scientific approach, supported by modern measuring equipment that properly highlights and evaluates the cumulative effects over longer periods of time. Although there is no recognised scientific data showing a negative impact of 5G on human health, there should be constant monitoring of social, health and environmental aspects, in line with the precautionary principle.