Monday

19th Nov 2018

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland extradites Polish man despite rule of law concerns
  2. Germany and France agree eurozone budget framework
  3. Austrian foreign minister: EU's Israel policy 'too strict'
  4. Soros and Kurz discuss Central European University move
  5. EU set to tighten rules on foreign strategic investment
  6. Macron repeats call for unified Europe in Bundestag speech
  7. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  8. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem

Opinion

Dodgy regime lobbying is below the EU's radar

In Brussels, PR professionals and lobbying consultants are working for some of the world's most autocratic regimes. And we have no way of knowing for sure who they are, how much they are paid, or what they are up to.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  2. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges
  3. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions
  4. EU cheerleaders go to Russia-occupied Ukraine
  5. EU must recognise new force for Balkans destabilisation
  6. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  7. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  8. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us