James Crisp. Freelance journalist in Brussels.

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Commission in breach of UN tobacco lobbying rules, says EU Ombudsman

The European Commission fails to meet United Nations transparency obligations over tobacco lobbying the EU Ombudsman has found, in the latest of a string of embarrassments over the executive’s relationship with Big Tobacco.

Emily O’Reilly found “inherent weaknesses” in the Commission’s current practices, and that, with the exception of DG Health, the Commission’s approach was “inadequate, unreliable, and unsatisfactory”.

It was also in breach of requirements made under the UN World Health Organisation 2005 Tobacco Control Convention, she said. The Commission told EurActiv it believed it had correctly interpreted the obligations of the Convention.

The Barroso Commission, rocked by the Dalligate graft scandal, was too secretive about meeting Big Tobacco lobbyists, the Ombudsman said.

Health Commissioner John Dalli was sacked by Former Commission President José Manuel Barroso in October 2012, after an anti-fraud investigation connected him to a €60 million attempt to influence EU tobacco legislation.

O’Reilly, who investigates maladministration in the EU institutions, called on the current administration, now led by Jean-Claude Juncker, to publish every meeting and minutes of meetings with tobacco lobbyists and their lawyers.

She found that certain meetings with lawyers representing the tobacco industry were not considered as meetings for the purpose of lobbying by the Commission.

In her official recommendations, she said that the rest of the executive should follow DG Health’s example of proactive transparency. Only DG Health hit the required standards, she said.

The Ombudsman inquiry was brought after NGO Corporate Europe Observatory complained that the Commission was failing to meet UN World Health Organisation transparency rules on tobacco.

2005’s Tobacco Control Convention requires signatories, including the EU, to be accountable and transparent.

The Commission argued that by answering access to document requests, and by responding to questions from Members of European Parliament, it met that obligation.

O’Reilly disagreed. She concluded that the Commission must take active measures to limit interactions with Big Tobacco, and to be transparent about its dealings with it. Otherwise, no details of meetings with lobbyists would become public unless a question was asked.

>>Read: Whole story on EurActiv

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This entry was posted on October 5, 2015 by in Journalism, lobbying and tagged , .

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