Wednesday

26th Apr 2017

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.

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.

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 / Brexit Briefing

Controlling the right of repeal

There was a distinct air of finality about Sir Tim Barrow's personal delivery of the Article 50 letter in Brussels – it certainly marks the end of an era.

Be fair in Brexit talks, EU tells UK

European Council chief Tusk sent draft guidelines to member states. He said the EU wants "fairness" and then warned against using security cooperation as bargaining chip.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  2. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan
  3. Ivanka Trump to meet Merkel at Berlin women's conference
  4. Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in 20 years
  5. Nord Stream 2 to get €4.8bn from European energy firms
  6. Defeated Fillon retires from French politics
  7. Hollande: Vote Macron to avoid 'risk' for France
  8. Italy misses deadline on air quality warning

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children