Wednesday

11th Dec 2019

Disgraced commissioner seeks help from EU parliament

  • Dalli (l) and Schulz during a previous meeting (Photo: europa.europarl.eu)

The ex-health-commissioner at the heart of a tobacco lobby scandal is to meet with European Parliament chief Martin Schulz on Tuesday (23 October) in Strasbourg to plead his innocence.

Dalli told EUobserver by phone on Monday: "I am not going there to seek any type of redress from Mr Schulz. I'm going to explain my position and to answer any questions ... I can't stand by when people are saying this case is closed. For me, the case has not even opened yet."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The European Commission last Tuesday in a press release announced that Dalli resigned voluntarily in order to clear his name.

It also said the EU anti-fraud office, Olaf, had found "circumstantial evidence" that he knew and did not report that a Maltese middleman was asking a tobacco firm, Swedish Match, for money to fiddle his EU tobacco-control bill.

Looking back on his meeting with Barroso, Dalli said the commission is lying about what really happened.

"I walked into Barroso's office and he told me I had to resign. I spent an hour and a half with him telling him this is not the way to do it and with him saying I must resign or I will dismiss you," Dalli recalled.

"I went to the meeting without knowing the agenda and he [Barroso] sprang this on me. He didn't show me any [Olaf] papers. He read from a file he had and in these circumstances I asked for 24 hours to consult with my lawyers and to tell my family - why should my family find out what happened from a press release? He said 'I'm giving you 30 minutes' and this is the way it happened," he added.

"There wasn't any raising of voices on his part or mine."

In a follow up to events, Dalli sent a letter to Barroso on Sunday night.

The letter - published on Monday by New Europe, an online newspaper on EU affairs - says: "In our meeting you explicitly demanded (verbally), for my resignation ... I replied (also verbally) that I would resign."

It adds that Barroso should now send him an official letter invoking article 17.6 of the EU Treaty on resignation procedures and that "without such request on your part, there is no resignation."

For its part, the commission on Monday said there are two witnesses - the head of the commission's legal service and the head of Barroso's cabinet - who saw Dalli tell Barroso he is leaving "of his own free will."

Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly noted that Dalli will get an EU pension for the next three years because "we have no evidence of any illegal behaviour."

But he said it was right for Dalli to go because the Olaf report made him "politically untenable."

Calling Dalli an "ex-commissioner" several times, he added: "For us, this question of the resignation of John Dalli is behind us."

Is Dalli's law dead?

Dalli on Monday also sent a letter to MEPs.

The two-page text notes that lobbyists linked to Swedish Match in July this year offered to pay the middleman to set up a meeting with Dalli, casting doubt on the integrity of Swedish Match, which complained to the commission in May that the middleman was trying to squeeze it for cash.

The letter also mentioned Dalli's concern the whole affair is designed to kill his tobacco law.

"Please insist with the commission that this directive is launched as planned so that thousands of lives can be saved," he urged MEPs.

Dalli told this website that new "inter-service consultations" - internal commission talks on the bill - are unlikely to get going before February.

"This will put it out of the timetable for finalisation in this legislature because of the timetable of parliament and if this happens this directive is dead because it has to start all over again in the new legislature," he said.

He warned there is a risk that any new version of his bill could be "diluted."

He also said that prior to the scandal "there was an attempt to dissuade me from going ahead with certain measures" in the tobacco law.

He declined to go into details and he said he does not know if the tobacco lobby has friends in high places in the commission.

When asked if he thinks tobacco firms engineered his demise to kill the law, he answered: "It has passed my mind."

The commission's Bailly noted that it does not matter whether the inter-service talks start in December, January or February.

"The political commitment of the college [of commissioners] and of this institution to revise the tobacco law has not changed," he said.

Dalli's draft law - among other provisions - says 75 percent of cigarette packs should be covered by pictures of smoking-related diseases.

It also aims to ban cigarette displays in shops and to regulate tobacco flavourings, aimed at women, such as chocolate or strawberry.

Zahradil 'conflict of interest' probe may flounder

The European Parliament's internal body, designed to sanction MEPs for conflicts of interests, has failed to deliver any meaningful verdicts. Some are hoping a future proposal for a new independent ethics body will help hold MEPs accountable.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary asked to apologise after council leak
  2. MEPs: Finnish budget proposal 'impossible to implement'
  3. EP committee supports 'Future of EU Conference'
  4. EU survey: climate change must be parliament's priority
  5. Zahradil resigns as rapporteur on EU-Vietnam trade deal
  6. Russia plans 'Arctic Air Defence" with S-400 missiles
  7. Belgium: King does another round of consultations
  8. Thousands protest Orban's theatre clampdown

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Hungary quizzed over EU rules amid twitter row
  2. Spanish King meets party leaders to break deadlock
  3. EU alarmed by prospects of battle for Tripoli
  4. EU must manage climate and industry together
  5. Does Malta's Labour Party now belong in S&D?
  6. Green Deal targets pit Left against Right in parliament
  7. Human rights abusers to face future EU blacklists
  8. Zahradil 'conflict of interest' probe may flounder

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us