Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

  • Dansk
  • NL
  • EN
  • FI
  • FR
  • DE
  • EL
  • IT
  • NO
  • PL
  • PT
  • RO
  • SL
  • ES
  • SV

European Commission complacent on tobacco industry influence

In a worrying development, the European Commission has refused to act on the recommendations of the European Ombudsman regarding tobacco industry lobbying.

In October 2015, Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly slammed the Commission's failure to comply with the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as 'maladministration' and urged the Commission to publish details of all meetings with tobacco lobbyists online. Now the Commission has responded by merely repeating its bogus claim that it "complies in full" with the UN rules and restating the same unconvincing argument that its general rules in the field of transparency and ethics are sufficient.

The Commission's refusal to take specific measures to tackle tobacco industry lobbying influence reflects a worrying complacency and lack of vigilance regarding the large-scale lobbying efforts of this sector. The Commission is seriously underestimating the magnitude, sophistication and nastiness of this toxic industry's lobbying efforts and the risk of undue influence.

Statements made in the Commission's response reveal this alarming lack of awareness of the risks of unchecked tobacco lobbying influence. For example, the Commission argues that additional transparency measures are not needed because meetings between top officials and tobacco lobbyists have been scaled back since the legislative process around the Tobacco Products Directive came to an end. This ignores the fact that tobacco industry lobbying is now targeting other issues, such as EU trade policy (TTIP and other trade negotiations), the renewal of the controversial agreements with four tobacco giants on combating illicit trade in tobacco and the battle around the choice of technology for high-tech digital watermarks in tobacco packaging to prevent counterfeit. This lobbying not only targets the approximately 250 top officials whose meetings are disclosed online, but also Commission officials in powerful roles on the levels below.

It is particularly shocking that the Commission stubbornly sticks to the claim that lawyers representing tobacco companies are not lobbyists but "legal experts". This is obviously a flawed approach that creates a very dangerous loophole enabling secretive tobacco lobbying influence.

Olivier Hoedeman, research and campaigns coordinator, Corporate Europe Observatory:

The Commission's stubborn rejection of the Ombudsman´s recommendation to secure tobacco lobbying transparency in line with UN guidelines is a major missed opportunity. If the Commission does not even take the risks of undue lobbying influence seriously for this most controversial sector, then how can the public have any trust in its overall ability to protect the public interest against regulatory capture and undue influence?”

All of this does not bode well for transparency and accountability, which President Juncker announced as a priority for his Commission upon taking office. Since then we've seen these issues constantly put on the back burner. Indeed, this Commission has recently proved so eager to maintain secrecy that we have received responses to freedom of information requests on tobacco lobbying and the TTIP talks that are so heavily redacted as to be incomprehensible.”

Ombudsman statement: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/press/release.faces/en/63655/html.bookmark

Background: http://corporateeurope.org/pressreleases/2015/10/commissions-secretive-tobacco-lobby-contacts-breach-un-rules-ombudsman

Contact: Olivier Hoedeman 0032 – (0)474 486 545 / 0032 - (0)28930930 olivier@corporateeurope.org

Related issues: 
 

CEO presents some first reflections on the UK's vote for Brexit.

Think tanks work all around the institutions of the European Union but how they work and who they work with is often less clear. Our new report offers a closer look at these supposedly impartial hubs of expertise and highlights how the think-tank status has become a convenient vehicle for corporate lobbying activities.

The European Commission proposal on scientific criteria defining endocrine disruptors (EDCs) is the latest dangerous outgrowth of a highly toxic debate. The chemical lobby, supported by certain Commission factions (notably DG SANTE and the Secretary-General) and some member states (UK and Germany), has put significant obstacles in the way of effective public health and environment regulation.

In the run up to the UK referendum on EU membership on 23 June, Corporate Europe Observatory has tabled a series of freedom of information requests to find out how UK finance lobbies have been influencing the referendum negotiations and the Capital Markets Union. But the Brexit-Bremain referendum seems to be a freedom of information black hole.

A few weeks after the May coup against Dilma Rousseff by conservative parties backed by the country's largest corporations, Brazil's “interim” government, led by Michel Temer, signed an emergency loan to the State of Rio de Janeiro to help finance infrastructure for the 2016 Olympics. The bailout was conditional to selling off the State's public water supply and sanitation company, the Companhia Estadual de Águas e Esgotos (Cedae). 

When we interviewed City Councillor and chair of Rio’s Special Committee on the Water Crisis Renato Cinco, in December 2015, he was already warning against such privatisation threats and provided important background information on the water situation in Rio.

José Manuel Barroso's move to Goldman Sachs has catapulted the EU’s revolving door problem onto the political agenda. It is symbolic of the excessive corporate influence at the highest levels of the EU.

Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth and LobbyControl today wrote to Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, calling on him to investigate Angelika Nieber MEP over a possible conflict of interest.

CEO presents some first reflections on the UK's vote for Brexit.

 
 
 
 
 
-- placeholder --
 
 
 

The corporate lobby tour