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EU: Tobacco Meetings are Transparent

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The European Commission insists it has sound transparency measures in place, despite EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly’s findings of maladministration in an inquiry of the Commission’s interactions with representatives of the tobacco industry.

“The Commission has been uncompromising in delivering the highest standards of transparency—on who we meet and who seeks to influence us,” a Commission spokesperson told Euractiv.

In December, O’Reilly concluded that the Commission had failed to “ensure a comprehensive approach across all its departments to transparency of meetings with representatives of the tobacco industry,” including “failure to ensure a systematic assessment, across all directorates-general, as to whether potential meetings are needed with representatives of the tobacco industry.”

Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control instructs parties, such as the EU, to protect public health polices from the tobacco industry’s commercial and other vested interests.

Despite the finding, the Commission spokesperson insisted that there is a “very solid baseline consisting of horizontal rules on ethics and integrity for Commission staff.”

Tobacco Europe, an industry organization, confirmed that it is difficult for tobacco lobbyists to arrange meetings with the Commission in any directorate-general. Its director of EU affairs, Nathalie Darge, said that FCTCs Article 5(3) is often “misinterpreted” and used as an excuse not to meet industry representatives.