Friday

22nd Nov 2019

EU watchdog raises alarm on tobacco lobbying

  • Some 700,000 people die every year in the EU to tobacco-related illnesses (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Commission is refusing to curb lobbying by tobacco firms in its ranks by not fully applying UN transparency rules, says an EU watchdog.

The EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly said on Monday (8 February) that the Brussels-executive ditched her recommendations to publish online all details - including the minutes - of meetings with tobacco lobbyists or their legal representatives.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or join as a group

"This is a missed opportunity by the Juncker Commission to show global leadership in the vital area of tobacco lobbying," she said in a statement, referring to commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker.

The UN's World Health Organisation bans public policy makers from fraternising in secret with tobacco firms under the so-called framework convention on tobacco control (FCTC).

The EU commission's directorate for health publishes all its meetings and minutes online.

Other directorates do not.

It means tobacco lobbyists can exert pressure or influence in other areas of the commission where the FCTC is not being applied.

"It cannot be enough to adopt a restrictive view of what is expected from the UN FCTC or to justify lack of proactivity on the grounds that it has met the minimum legal requirements," said O'Reilly.

Commission rebuffs claims

Her recommendations highlighted the commission's legal services, which had dealings with tobacco industry insiders in the lead up to an overhaul of the EU tobacco products directive.

Michel Petite, a corporate lawyer for big tobacco firms at Clifford Chance, held talks with the commission's legal services in September 2011 and September 2012.

Before landing a job with the London-based lawyers, Petite headed the commission's legal service in 2008. A year later, he was appointed to the commission's ethics committee on lobbying, a position he held until December 2013.

Transparency activists criticised his role on the ethics committee, as Philip Morris International is among the clients of Clifford Chance.

Petite also played a minor but crucial role in the events that saw John Dalli lose his job as the EU commissioner for health over tobacco-related bribery allegations.

The commission says it fully complies with the FCTC.

It says Petite is a legal expert and not an industry representative.

It says staff regulations, code of conduct rules, access to documents and other internal guidelines are good enough to ensure the integrity of policy and law making.

O'Reilly launched her inquiry in June 2014 after receiving a complaint from the Brussels-based pro-transparency NGO Corporate Europe Transparency.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament votes on new commission next week
  2. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  3. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  4. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  5. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  6. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  7. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  8. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'

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.

Column

Why the EU can't do security and defence

What if the EU can't guarantee European security? In times when US physical presence does not make up for its mental absence, the question got urgent.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP congress pledges 'moderate' climate solution
  2. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  3. New EU financial instruments needed
  4. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  5. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  6. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  7. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  8. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us