Monday

20th May 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 18 year's of archives. 30 days 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 flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day
  2. EU to freeze money and visas of foreign cyber-attackers
  3. EU reassures US on arms sales
  4. Use euros over dollars in energy contracts, France says
  5. UK cross-party Brexit talks collapse
  6. Climate activists occupy German-Russian gas pipeline
  7. Farage got €515,000 of private perks
  8. French EU commissioner urges Italy not to overspend

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us