Wednesday

22nd Feb 2017

MEPs urge EU commission to end Philip Morris deal

  • EU states seized €460 million worth of cigarettes last year, counted in terms of lost tax revenue (Photo: HM Revenue & Customs)

The European Parliament has called on the European Commission to end its agreement with tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI).

Four hundred and fourteen MEPs voted against the deal in Strasbourg on Wednesday (9 March), 214 backed it and 66 abstained.

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  • Michel Petite (r), a senior EU official, negotiated the Philip Morris deal before joining the private sector to lobby EU institutions on tobacco (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The tobacco accord, which is to expire in July, made the EU and PMI into partners in the fight against cigarette smuggling. It was agreed 12 years ago and involved PMI payments of about €1 billion to the EU and member states.

The commission in its assessment of the deal on 24 February said it “effectively met its objective.” It added that changes in the market and legal framework cast doubt on its future relevance, however.

Parliament has no formal say in the matter. But in political terms, the commission would need strong reasons to defy the MEPs.

“The voice of parliament has to be heard now,” Spanish centre-left MEP Ines Ayala Sender told EUobserver after the vote.

She said that the parliament asked the EU commission to find ways to substitute PMI’s anti-smuggling resources in the coming years.

PMI told this website by e-mail that “what matters most is that the supply chain control measures contained within the agreement are continued”.

“The ongoing debate continues to be focused on opposition among parties pro- and against the renewal of the agreement, rather than on pragmatic solutions to win the real fight against illicit trade in the EU,” it said.

Belgian Green MEP Bart Staes said in a press release after the vote that it sent “a clear political message against renewing the PMI agreement”.

“This vote should serve as a shot across the bows to elements within the EU commission pushing for negotiations to begin,” he said.

The commissioner in charge of the PMI file, Kristalina Georgieva, told this website in Strasbourg on Wednesday, before the EP vote, that the commission is “very carefully listening to all arguments, from all stakeholders”.

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With less than five months until a deal with tobacco company PMI expires, MEPs and commissioner Georgieva discussed how to fight illegal cigarette trade after its expiration date.

EU states 'unlikely to block new tobacco deal'

Diplomatic sources from over half of the EU member states say they broadly back renewing an anti-smuggling agreement with tobacco firm PMI, which will expire in July.

Tobacco firms defend value of EU deals

With an EU anti-smuggling deal with Philip Morris due to expire, EUobserver talked to tobacco lobbyists from two competing firms that have similar arrangements.

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Amid protests in front of the European Parliament's Strasbourg building and after heated debate among MEPs, the landmark trade deal with Canada was approved with a comfortable majority.

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