The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is an advisory body, comprised of several bureaus and sections, designed to assist policy making at the European Parliament, Council and Commission.
Last year, its Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society section (TEN) started a process to create an opinion regarding how to alleviate the problems people who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) face in daily life. Discussion included how the EU currently handles the problem, why they should be more proactive and how.
In December 2014, the TEN Rapporteur, Bernardo Hernandez Barteller, produced a series of draft opinions which resulted in this finalized draft. Among many points, the final draft acknowledged that microwave radiation seemed causally linked to the symptoms experienced by electrohypersensitive people and that when away from these fields, people stopped suffering. The British research and advocacy group Powerwatch has produced a useful summary of the draft opinion.
Numerous EHS advocacy groups from across Europe joined forces and submitted a letter expressing their concerns about the issue and support for a strong opinion. It seemed like the draft would go to a plenary session of the full EESC for a vote on January 21, 2015. However, a counter-opinion written by EESC member Richard Adams, appeared and rapidly changed everything.
Adams’ counter-opinion took an extremely different approach to the issue of electrohypersensitivity, failing to address basic questions regarding the social and economic impacts imposed on EHS sufferers. It instead focused on how global and national health agencies refute linkage between exposure to microwave radiation and the wide variety of symptoms experienced by the electrohypersensitive. The counter-opinion does not dismiss the existence of the condition or the suffering of electrohypersensitive people, but suggests that instead of looking at avoiding microwave radiation, they should instead engage in talking therapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy, implying that these people really just have psychological problems. This widely outraged those who suffer from the condition, those who advocate on their behalf and scientists who feel that their work has demonstrated a strong link between exposure to microwaves and EHS.
At the final plenary session on January 21, both the Rapporteur’s opinion and Adams’ counter-opinion were introduced and then there was an opportunity for EESC members to speak. After roughly an hour of discussion, the vote was called. The counter-opinion was voted on first, however when this was first mentioned early in the plenary, there seemed to be a tone of surprise in the voice of the official who announced this would happen. Listen for yourself and decide.
Just prior to the vote, an EESC member protested what he felt was a procedural error in that Mr. Adams was allowed to speak following the Rapporteur which is not supposed to happen. I am currently looking through the EESC rules and procedures and attempting to talk with those officials to try and determine if any irregularities did occur in the process. When I learn more, I will post it above.
The counter-opinion was approved 136-110 with 19 members abstaining which meant that the original opinion from the Rapporteur was simply dismissed without any vote.
I interviewed Richard Adams about a week after the vote to try and learn more about why he drafted his counter-opinion, why it focused almost exclusively on issues other than economic and social ones, what is his awareness of the literature regarding electrohypersensitivity and exposure to microwave radiation and what his counter-opinion would do to alleviate the daily problems that EHS people must face.