Tuesday

19th Jun 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.

... our 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. Report: Audi CEO arrested over Dieselgate
  2. EU-Australia trade talks kick off in Brussels next month
  3. France and Germany moving closer to eurozone reform
  4. Merkel to meet Conte to find migration compromise
  5. Seehofer gives Merkel time to strike EU migration deal
  6. Schroeder and Sarkozy appear with Putin at World Cup
  7. Tennis champ and 'EU diplomat' claims immunity
  8. Italy threatens to ditch EU-Canada free trade deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  2. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. Orban to EPP: turn 'Christian democratic' or face challenge
  2. Is EU retail sector equipped for 21st century?
  3. Tear gas bodes ill for Macedonia name deal
  4. EU asylum claims drop, Germany registers most
  5. EU summit: migrants get a 'vote' too
  6. Basque threat of 'second front' for independence
  7. Progressive regulation needed now for 21st century finance
  8. Greece and Merkel's fate top This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us