Commission must clear smoke about tobacco industry lobbying

17 January 2013

Friends of the Earth Europe, together with partners from the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), has called on European Commission President Barroso to reveal all the facts about the extent of lobbying by the tobacco industry in Brussels.

The issue has been under the spotlight since John Dalli, the former EU Commissioner for health and consumers, resigned in October 2012. He stepped down following allegations that he was aware of attempts by the tobacco industry to exert undue influence on legislation.

Now documents obtained by Friends of the Earth Europe under freedom-of-information laws reveal that the tobacco industry also sought to gain influence through Edmund Stoiber, chair of the High-Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens. The group is an advisory body set up by the European Commission to reduce administrative burden on existing regulation.

The correspondence obtained shows how a Bavarian tobacco and snuff producer, Pöschl Tabak, raised its concerns about the tobacco products directive with Mr Stoiber. Stoiber later took up the concerns with Dalli and lobbied him to weaken his plans. He committed to, as a minimum, promote exemptions and long transition periods for small and medium-sized companies in the review of the legislation, ignoring the potential health benefits of stricter tobacco regulation. This action constitutes a clear breach of his mandate as chair of the advisory group.

Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe, and a member of ALTER-EU's steering committee, said: "The High-Level Group on Administrative Burdens looks increasingly like a forum for industry to lobby against standards designed to protect the environment, health, consumers and employment. The Commission must take steps to ensure Mr Stoiber and other members of the High-Level Group cannot act as lobbyists or use their positions to try to weaken legislation on industry's behalf."

No fewer than 154 MEPs have asked questions to the European Commission about the resignation of former Commissioner Dalli. Several European leaders have called for a special parliamentary committee to investigate whether the Commission has acted transparently on the 'Dalli case'.

The High-Level Group on Administrative Burdens has already been criticised, including by MEPs, for having a deregulation agenda. The group seems to be becoming a magnet for companies unhappy with proposed EU regulation, providing them with direct and privileged access to Commissioners and other high-level EU decision-makers.

The Dalli case adds weight to concerns about transparency and the behaviour of lobbyists in Brussels. Friends of the Earth Europe and ALTER-EU call on the Commission to come clean about the extent of industry lobbying on the tobacco directive and Mr Dalli's resignation. This should include an in-depth investigation into the role of Mr Stoiber in the High-Level Group on Administrative Burdens.

You can take action by asking President Barroso and help clear the smoke in Brussels. Take part in ALTER-EU's 'Clear the smoke' cyber-action now. 

---

Friends of the Earth Europe obtained these documents relating to Edmund Stoiber's involvement in lobbying on the Tobacco Products Directive:

Letter from Edmund Stoiber to Patrick Engels, 11 July 2012

Letter from John Dalli to Edmund Stoiber, 28 June 2012

Letter from Edmund Stoiber to John Dalli, 12 May 2012

Letter from Edmund Stoiber to Patrick Engels, Poschl Tobacco 10 May 2012

Letter from Patrick Engels to Edmund Stoiber, 26 April 2012