OPINION

Editorial

Three years ago, when the entry of the Panafon mobile phone company into the stock market was triumphantly completed, Kathimerini remarked that the field of mobile telephony constituted an unfortunate, if not scandalous, case of privatization: The mega-profits of the two mobile phone companies proved that the price they had paid for acquiring state-issued permits was low, but also that the exclusion of OTE Telecom was unprofitable for the public corporation and, therefore, for the State itself. The Citizens’ Advocate has revealed that the granting of extremely favorable conditions for mobile phone companies was not limited to the terms pervading the issuance of permits, but was also expanded to create a status of immunity under which these companies – including CosmOTE – installed the antennas necessary for the operation of the network. In his report, the Ombudsman mentions that the Transport and Communications Ministry not only authorizes mobile phone companies to place antennas anywhere they wish, but also lacks a procedure for monitoring radiation levels. This license is paradoxical, to say the least, as, according to the report, reservations over the harmful effects of antennas on residents’ health are not only being voiced by medical officials but also by the Environment and Health ministries, which are run by the same government as the Transport Ministry – the same one that has been so generous with the mobile phone firms. The Public Works Ministry acknowledges that the antennas emit radiation and degrade the environment – which necessitates a study on environmental repercussions – while the Health Ministry emphasizes that the health question remains open, meaning that the basic welfare needs mandate that such antennas not be installed near schools, hospitals, nursing homes, nurseries and other such facilities. The Citizens’ Advocate believes a legal settlement must be reached to compel firms to comply with Health Ministry recommendations. For the average citizen, the question is not whether these recommendations should be adopted (for the need for it is self-evident), but rather whether such a long period of immunity is necessary. The firms in this sector have made huge profits by exploiting state permits and the freedom to use the OTE network. Respect for basic standards of safe operation is the minimum burden that firms should have willingly undertaken. The fact that the State tolerated their disregard adds a serious issue of transparency to the already major issue of public health.