The Constitutional Court in Belgium has ruled against a challenge to the decision of the Brussels government to raise the allowed radiofrequency exposure levels to facilitate deployment of 4G services in the Brussels Capital region.
In the 27 January judgment the Court found that the Parliament of the Brussels region had not shown a misunderstanding of the precautionary principle by relaxing the exposure levels as even the new levels were well below the recommended standards internationally.
In 2007, the Parliament of the Brussels Region of Belgium adopted a 3 V/m exposure limit for mobile phone base stations, a limit 200 times stricter than the limits recommended by the EU and the World Health Organization.
“The capital of Europe may be the only place in Europe where there is no 4G.”
A report from the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (a government agency) also concluded that the regulations were “…causing unintended consequences on economic development, the creation [of] jobs and consumers…”
Faced with this situation the Parliament of the Brussels Capital Region adopted legislation in early 2014 to increase the exposure limit for base stations to 6 V/m – a level still 50 times lower than the World Health Organization’s recommended limits. The legislation also included the establishment of an expert committee to review of the effects of mobile networks in respect of health and the economy.
A number of groups and individuals launched a legal challenge to the changed levels and other aspects of the new legislation in October 2014 arguing that it reduced the level of environmental protection. The Brussels government and the mobile operators responded in support of the new legislation.
The Brussels Minister of Environment, Celine Fremault, expressed “great satisfaction” with the judgment, noting that:
“The Court recognises the need to develop 4G in Brussels because of its international and European role.”
The Court did annul a provision of the 2014 rules that excluded “balconies and terraces” from consideration as places accessible to the public.
It is unclear whether the raised limits will be sufficient longer term. Belgian operator, Base, warned in a blog article when the rules were first adopted:
“The new standard will soon prove to be inadequate if people want operators to be able to prepare their networks to bring them in line with the expected rise in 4G data communications over the years to come.”
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