Monday

15th Apr 2024

Expiration of tobacco deal is nigh but future still unclear

  • The anti-smuggling deal between the EU and Philip Morris International is due to expire. (Photo: European Parliament)

Nine days before a twelve-year old cooperation agreement on tobacco smuggling between the EU and tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) is due to expire, its future is still unclear.

EU Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said on Friday (1 July) he was unable to “give you a very concrete answer here”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • Juncker has yet to put the EU-PMI deal on the agenda for his weekly meeting of commissioners. (Photo: European Parliament)

He noted that the president of the commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, decides what is put on the agenda for the weekly meeting of commissioners, the so-called college.

“He puts items there when he thinks it is the right moment. I'm not aware of this being on the agenda,” said Winterstein.

The college of commissioners is meeting on Tuesday 5 July in Strasbourg. It will be their last meeting before the EU-PMI deal expires.

It was signed on 9 July 2004, for a period of twelve years.

The agreement cemented cooperation between PMI on one hand, and national customs authorities and anti-fraud agency Olaf on the other.

It also included annual payments from PMI into EU and national budgets, totalling around €1 billion over the twelve-year period. The two sides agreed that the payments may be used by governments to combat tobacco smuggling, although no earmarking was done.

Member states in general have been supportive of the agreement, and are in favour, or have no strong objections against, a renewal.

But the European Parliament has turned against the deal, which they say is anachronistic. In March, it adopted a non-binding text which called on the commission not to extend or renew the deal.

Reasons included that new legislation covers many of the aspects from the agreement, but also that the EU should not cooperate closely with an industry that has questionable tactics – tobacco firms had challenged the new tobacco products directive in court, but failed.

The parliament said in its resolution that since the deal was concluded in 2004 "the market and regulatory environment have experienced substantial changes" and noted "that the agreement does not address important characteristics of the illicit tobacco trade today", like brandless cigarettes being smuggled.

In the resolution, the MEPs asked the commission "not to renew, extend or renegotiate it beyond its current date of expiry".

The commission does not need the parliament's consent to renegotiate the deal, which it concluded on behalf of national governments. But it is likely that the commission is taking the potential political fallout of going against the wishes of the parliament into consideration.

Although commission spokesman Winterstein was unable on Friday to say whether the deal would be renewed, or even if there would be enough time to renegotiate it before 9 July, he did provide a statement that may slightly bolster the hopes of those opposed to a renewal.

“What I can tell you is that the president has read with great interest the resolution of the European Parliament,” said Winterstein.

Update: On Tuesday 5 July, Winterstein was asked about the future of the agreement again, and repeated his previous answer.

Last year, EUobserver published a four-part series of articles about the EU's agreement with tobacco company PMI

Part one: Will EU renew $1.25bn deal with tobacco firm PMI?

Part two: EU sleuths ignore special powers on tobacco smuggling

Part three: Scant evidence EU tobacco deal curbed smuggling

Part four: How did the EU spend its €110 million in tobacco money?

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.

Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU

European environmental groups have urged the EU Commission to stand firm on implementing the bloc's landmark anti-deforestation legislation — despite a backlash from governments in South America, Africa and some EU ministers.

Opinion

This 'deregulation' lobbying now threatens EU economy

Next week's EU summit (17-18 April) will discuss the strategic agenda for the next five years. The current "competitiveness agenda" is to a large extent driven by a big lobbying campaign — so far, not well covered by the media.

Latest News

  1. EU puts Sudan war and famine-risk back in spotlight
  2. EU to blacklist Israeli settlers, after new sanctions on Hamas
  3. Private fears of fairtrade activist for EU election campaign
  4. Brussels venue ditches far-right conference after public pressure
  5. How German police pulled the plug on a Gaza conference
  6. EU special summit, MEPs prep work, social agenda This WEEK
  7. EU leaders condemn Iran, urge Israeli restraint
  8. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us