22nd Mar 2018


EU smoke & mirrors

  • Dalli (l) says he was forced to resign in the big tobacco affair (Photo: EUobserver)

When European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso gave his farewell speech to MEPs after 10 years in office he said his proudest moment was when he picked up the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2012 on behalf of the EU.

But just two months earlier he had faced what was arguably his biggest embarrassment: 'Dalligate'.

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The term refers to the tobacco lobbying scandal surrounding Barroso's former health commissioner, John Dalli.

Barroso, in a fateful meeting with Dalli on 16 October, told him there was "circumstantial" evidence that he had solicited a bribe and that the Maltese politician was "politically untenable".

By his own admission, later in an EU court, Barroso feared the issue could become a new 'Santer affair' - when, in 1999, a corruption fiasco forced the whole commission to resign.

Did Dalli jump out of his post? Was he pushed?

Did he try to shake down tobacco firms in return for unlocking a new EU market worth half a billion euros a year?

Or did big tobacco, and its friends inside the EU, orchestrate Dalli's downfall to sabotage his "tough" anti-tobacco law?

The events involve: EU officials-turned-tobacco-lobbyists; newly-leaked emails and EU files; a $100 million charity in the Bahamas; and ongoing Maltese and EU court cases which could end in millions of euros of damages or years in jail.

In a series of eight articles, EUobserver reporter Nikolaj Nielsen takes a closer look at events which, in the words of one MEP, will haunt Brussels for the next 10 years to come.

Part I: From Peppi’s to Barroso’s

Part I of VIII: EUobserver takes a closer look at the Barroso commission's biggest scandal - tobacco lobbying and John Dalli - in events some say will haunt the EU "for the next 10 years".

Part III: Actors assemble for EU melodrama

The new EU health commissioner’s first known contact with a tobacco lobbyist was on 20 August 2010 at the five-star Kempinski Hotel on the Maltese island of Gozo.

EU court dismisses Dalli case

A former EU health commissioner, accused of soliciting bribes from a tobacco firm, lost his case against the European Commission for unlawful dismissal.

Scant evidence EU tobacco deal curbed smuggling

A ‘landmark’ agreement with tobacco company PMI was supposed to bring down cigarette smuggling. But it is very difficult to estimate the success of the deal, which is up for renewal in 2016.

Part VII: €60mn Valentine's Day gift

While Silvio Zammit risks jail time and former EU health commission John Dalli is still under investigation, the witness to the prosecution, Gayle Kimberley, has largely escaped scrutiny.

EU smoke & mirrors

EUobserver reporter Nikolaj Nielsen sheds new light on the Dalli lobbying scandal, which, by Barroso's own admission, threatened to bring down the EU executive, but which is not over yet.

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