EU smoke & mirrors
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.