Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, criticised the Commission for further delaying its assessment of a controversial agreement struck over a decade ago with the tobacco industry to curb the smuggling and faking of cigarettes in EU markets.
The agreement, known as the EU-PMI Agreement, after the first deal was struck between the European Commission, Member States and Philip Morris, to be followed by the other tobacco giants, is due for expiry in July and liable for renewal.
This settlement was reached after the EU authorities brought the industry to court in the United States.
Speaking today in reaction to the Commission’s failure to present an overdue impact assessment of the agreement, eventually promised for the end of 2015, Ms. Childers said:
“Myself and other colleagues who work to curb the influence of big tobacco on public policy have been pressing the Commission to face up to the failure of these agreements.
“The previous Commission team kept extolling the successes of this deal against any lack of solid evidence that it works to the benefit of taxpayers and the public purse.
“At least now there seems to be a willingness to look into it, but I am not surprised to see the Commission is struggling to conclude the assessment.
“Even a cursory look into its workings shows how lopsided and reliant on the tobacco industry’s own resources and methods it is.
“We have basically let the industry determine whether smuggled cigarettes are fake or not, according to their own marking system, never cared to have this checked by independent labs, and let them get away with paying nothing when they deem seized consignments to be fakes.
“Of course, they have an interest in deeming them fake, and indeed declare the vast majority as such, otherwise they owe the exchequer for the smuggling of their own wares.
“On top of that, we exempt them from paying below certain thresholds in any case, and let them commission and pay for all the assessments of the system carried out so far by private consultants.
“And all of this on foot of a settlement of a case launched against this very industry for smuggling and associated illicit trade activities, but which big tobacco spins as part of their corporate social responsibility.
“We might as well put the tobacco industry in charge of our customs service while we are at it.”