Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, expressed incredulity at the Commission’s dismissal of the European Ombudsman’s concerns over the EU executive’s dealings with big tobacco.
At the end of last year, Ms. Childers secured unanimous approval for an opinion she drafted on the matter at the European Parliament’s Environment and Public Health Committee which addressed the issue of lobbying and the need for transparency and accountability across the institutions of the EU.
The European Ombudsman had also issued recommendations to the Commission on foot of complaints from the non-profit sector, which the Commission has now refused to follow upon.
Echoing Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly’s concern, Ms. Childers said, today: “Mr. Juncker’s college of Commissioners came to Brussels with a promise to make the EU executive an example of transparency.
“We were promised a break with Mr. Barroso’s Byzantine secrecy and backroom dealing, of ‘Dalligate’ fame, which spawned countless conspiracy theories about big tobacco’s hold on the higher echelons of EU policy making.
“Yet the Commission’s contacts with the tobacco industry remain cloaked under the thickest smokescreens.
“Even former Commission Secretary-General Catherine Day saw fit to respond to access to documents requests with such heavy black marker redactions that barely the page numbers escape.
“You could almost believe you’re looking at CIA covert operations reports, rather than Tobacco industry lobbyists masquerading as lawyers.
“This may have the whiff of a bad thriller but instead we are talking about failure from the Commission to abide by rules they sign up to, in line with World Health Organisation standards, when it comes to contact between policy makers and representatives of the manufacturers of products which kill you if used according to their indications.
“At the same time, we are still awaiting for an overdue impact assessment of measures arising from out of court settlements on the industry’s involvement in smuggling and counterfeiting, which have been a very poor arrangement from the taxpayers’ perspective.
“The Commission’s extraordinary refusal to act stinks of opacity and disregard for EU citizens’ interests all the more, in that the Ombudsman’s arguments are reasonable and its transparency demands feasible and straightforward”.