On October 16th, John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, stepped down (1) as a member of the Commission. Mr Dalli informed the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, of his decision following an investigation by OLAF (1), the EU’s antifraud office, into a complaint made in May 2012 by the tobacco producer, Swedish Match.
The company alleged that a Maltese entrepreneur had used his contacts with Mr Dalli to try to gain financial advantages from the company in return for seeking to influence a possible future legislative proposal on tobacco products, in particular on the EU export ban on snus (a moist powder tobacco product).
" Commissioner Dalli’s resignation shows how powerful the tobacco industry can be in influencing and undermining decision makers that are trying to support public health measures. This also shows that lobbying practices in Brussels need to be much more regulated with increased transparency and a strong role for watchdogs of the decision making process. This is serious enough for the President of the European Commission to take notice and start regulating lobbying practices in Brussels, much more effectively than attempts up to now have," stated Monika Kosinska, Secretary General of EPHA - European Public Health Alliance.
"We hope that this will not achieve what big tobacco has intended to achieve with this action: blocking a reinforced and stronger future Tobacco Product Directive. We trust that the European Commission and Member States will fulfil their duty as representatives of the public interest, acting for the health of their citizens and will not delay the adoption of the Directive. A strong Directive is the only response the European Commission can give to the OLAF investigation: showing that despite influences, it acts to protect its citizens," further stated Kosinska.
(2) The OLAF final report found that the Maltese entrepreneur had approached the company using his contacts with Mr Dalli and sought to gain financial advantages in exchange for influence over a possible future legislative proposal on snus. The OLAF report did not find any conclusive evidence of the direct participation of Mr Dalli but did consider that he was aware of these events. The final OLAF report and its recommendations are being sent by OLAF to the Attorney General of Malta. It will now be for the Maltese judiciary to decide how to follow up.
European Commissioner for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration and Commission Vice-president Maroš Šefčovič will take over the portfolio of Mr Dalli on an interim basis.
Javier Delgado Rivera, Communications Coordinator- +32 2 233 38 76 or firstname.lastname@example.org