27th Oct 2016

EU commissioner resigns in tobacco-lobby dispute

  • The Maltese official denies any wrongdoing (Photo:

EU health commissioner John Dalli has resigned "to defend his reputation" in a dispute on tobacco lobbying.

The European Commission said its top Maltese official stepped down on Tuesday (16 October) after his boss, Jose Manuel Barroso, told him that Olaf, the EU's anti-fraud office, had filed a report on him on Monday.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The case concerns Swedish Match, a Stockholm-based firm which produces snus, a mouth tobacco.

Swedish Match complained to Brussels in May that a "Maltese entrepreneur" had asked it for money in return for using "his contacts" with Dalli to influence an EU ban on snus exports.

Olaf said "no payment was made" and that it "did not find any conclusive evidence of the direct participation of Mr Dalli."

But it "did consider that he was aware of these events."

The commission noted that Dalli "categorically rejects these findings."

It added the Olaf report has been sent to the attorney general of Malta and the Maltese judiciary will decide whether to follow up.

Internal affairs commissioner Maros Sefcovic is to take over Dalli's job for the time being.

But Maltese press reports the country's foreign minister, Tonio Borg, or its former EU ambassador, Richard Cachia Caruana, might take over in the long run.

The Brussels-based NGO, Corporate Europe Observatory, says the EU capital is a theatre of intense lobbying over the final shape of a new directive on tobacco products due to be published later this year.

Ideas include a ban on point-of-sale advertising in shops - a proposal currently being fought by the London-based PR firm Luther Pendragon and CEDT, the tobacco retailers' trade body.

Back in Malta, the news of Dalli's resignation was greeted by national media with little surprise.

Dalli in 2004 stepped down as Maltese foreign minister after allegations - later judged false - that a firm controlled by his contacts was selling airline tickets to diplomats.

Back in the 1990s, he faced accusations of corruption over the sale of Mid-Med Bank for a tiny sum to foreign buyers.

EU myth-busters set for budget upgrade

One year after its launch, East Stratcom, the EU’s “tiny” counter-propaganda cell, has created a 20,000-strong following and could get a €1 million budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ANCI LazioAnci Lazio Definetely has a lot to Celebrate This Year
  2. EU-China ForumDebating the Future of the EU-China Relations on 28 November in Prague
  3. COMECEMigrants: From Fear to Compassion
  4. Birdlife EuropeBusiness as Usual - Juncker Snubs Environment and Protects Broken CAP
  5. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  6. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  7. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  8. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  9. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  10. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  11. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  12. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum

Latest News

  1. Cars should be allowed to exceed emissions limits, say experts
  2. EU case against Google is bad for developers
  3. Privacy activists mount court challenge to EU-US data pact
  4. Thousands of Nato soldiers go to Baltic states, Romania
  5. Canada's PM cancels EU summit amid Ceta woes
  6. Commission revives corporate taxation plan
  7. Iceland's not-so-quiet revolution
  8. EU’s gender equality progress under threat of conservatism