Tuesday

16th Aug 2022

EU freezes tobacco law after lobbying scandal

  • Dalli says he was sacked. The commission says he resigned (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission has frozen work on its new anti-tobacco law, despite warnings it is falling into a tobacco industry trap.

Spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde-Hansen said on Wednesday (17 October) that internal talks on the law - "inter-service consultations," the final step before decision-making - due to start next month will not take place.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

She noted that: "Any proposal to revise the tobacco legislation will be made by the next commissioner in charge of the portfolio ... The review of this complex body of legislation will be taken forward when we have a new commissioner for health and consumer policy."

She declined to say whether work will begin from scratch or pick up where former health commissioner John Dalli broke off.

She added it could take until Christmas at least to replace him due to the ins-and-outs of the procedure, which includes a candidate hearing in the European Parliament.

Dalli lost his post on Tuesday in controversial circumstances.

The commission says he resigned after his boss, Jose Manuel Barroso, showed him a report from the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf, saying he is guilty of improper conduct in a tobacco lobbying case.

Dalli says he was sacked and that the whole affair is designed to derail the law.

"I was asked for my resignation," he told New Europe, an online newspaper, in an interview also on Wednesday.

He said the bill - which was to propose putting pictures of smoking-related diseases on 75 percent of the surface of cigarette packs, among other measures - has been ready to go into inter-service talks since August. But commission civil service chief Catherine Day twice postponed the move already.

"Now it is probable to me there will be no such directive during this commission ... [which] is a big gain for the tobacco industry," he added.

For his part, Olaf head Giovanni Kessler, a former Italian prosecutor, told press in Brussels the same day he had examined and discounted the possibility that his service is being manipulated.

The story revolves around Swedish Match, a producer of mouth-tobacco, and a Maltese businessman who knows Dalli.

Kessler said lobbyists working for Swedish Match met with the businessman twice, at which point he requested a "big" sum of money to get Dalli to alter the bill and Swedish Match reported it to the commission.

He added that Dalli "was aware of someone close to him repeatedly asking for money to change the policy of the commission ... he was aware of it and he didn't do anything to stop it, to prevent it or to report it."

The Olaf chief called it a "classic" case of normal lobbying "polluted" by corruption.

But Swedish Match's role in the story might be more complicated than that.

Maltese media on Wednesday published an email showing that Estoc, a Brussels-based lobby group which represents the Swedish firm, itself requested the Maltese businessman to set up a meeting with Dalli in return for a fee.

It made the request in March this year, two months before Swedish Match complained to the commission that the Dalli middleman is trying to squeeze it for money.

Big tobacco distorted EU treaty, scientists say

One of the biggest tobacco manufacturers in the world led a group of chemical, food, oil and other firms in a lobbying strategy to shape EU policy making, a fresh study says.

Column

Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.

Opinion

Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Germany rejects visa ban for Russian tourists
  2. Iran responds to EU's 'final text' on nuclear deal
  3. Model minority myths
  4. EU must make public who really owns its fishing fleets
  5. Germany needs to cut gas use by 20% to stave off winter crisis
  6. Europe's wildfire destruction set to hit new record
  7. How Putin and Erdoğan are making the West irrelevant
  8. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us