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Brussels first citizens’ committee to tackle 5G issue

Credit: Belga

Brussels’ first citizens’ committee launched this week, consisting of 45 randomly selected residents of the Belgian capital (including non-Belgians) and 15 members of parliament who will meet regularly on weekends to deliberate city issues.

The first one they’re tackling is the 5G rollout, which sparked protests just last month from city residents who say it will double Brussels’ data circulation and digital energy consumption at a time when the country – and the world – is battling climate change.

Because of how sensitive and complicated the issue of 5G has become, with conspiracy theorists flooding the internet with misinformation and “Stop 5G” stickers appearing on lampposts and stop lights all across Brussels, the citizens’ committee will first hear testimony and explanations from qualified experts before beginning their debate.

“I hope they will bring clarity about 5G, because it is difficult to find accurate information about it,” one committee member told Bruzz.

Telecom provider Proximus launched Belgium’s first “5G light” network in 30 municipalities across the country on 1 April, but the network isn’t available in Brussels yet, as it exceeds the Region’s radiation standards, which are “almost 50 times stricter” than what EU and WHO guidelines call for, according to Brussels MP Bianca Debaets.

5G refers to the fifth generation of the cellular network your mobile phone accesses in order to be able to send messages and otherwise function while out and about, away from WiFi.

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Green MEP Lotte Stoops was one of the driving forces behind the Brussels’ citizens’ committee.

“This is the first step towards a society in which people constantly make their voices heard, not just during elections,” said Stoops. “We are making politics something for all citizens of Brussels again.”

In order to form the committee, 10,000 Brussels residents were selected at random and asked if they were interested in participating. About 1,200 of those said yes, and then selections were made based on diversity goals intended to make sure the committee represents as much of the cosmopolitan city as possible.

“We are seeing more and more engaged citizens who are raising challenges or opportunities on a wide range of social issues,” Stoops said. “With the citizens’ committee we tap into that commitment and make citizen participation easier than ever.”

The first meeting was yesterday, which was just an information session held to explain what the committee will do and how it will function.

The next meeting on Sunday will feature experts there to explain what 5G is, and answer any questions.

Over the next few weeks, the committee will consult and prepare recommendations and then prepare a report for 5 June.

“The parliament has to follow up on those suggestions or justify why they are not going to work with them,” Stoops explained. “In concrete terms, this means that the work of the citizens’ committee will have a direct impact and will be able to guide political decisions.”