Tuesday, 10 September 2013

On lobbying in Brussels

It is not a secret that international companies lobby heavily the European institutions in Brussels. However, the scale of that lobbying may astound even the most cynical of our readers. The Guardian reported last week on documents leaked to The Observer from the international tobacco giant - Philip Morris, which reveal what measures it undertook to prevent new EU regulations regarding health warning labels on cigarettes' packaging from becoming reality ("Tobacco giant Philip Morris 'spent millions in bid to delay EU legislation'"). We have previously reported on the proposal to change existing labelling rules in order to make cigarettes even less attractive to European consumers (Plain packaging of tobacco products; Smoke-free EU; Smokers beware). This week the European Parliament was supposed to vote on the new law that would review the existing 2001 Tobacco Products Directive (in our previous posts we've discussed the proposed changes), however, the vote has been postponed until 8 October. You could think that a month should not make a difference, however, if the revisions of the Directive are not adopted by January 2014 they may not be adopted at all, since in January the presidency of the European Union goes from Lithuania (pro-regulation of stricter tobacco products measures) to Greece (against-regulation). This delay in the legislation process is definitely a win for the lobby sector in Brussels, and no wonder since according to the Guardian just Philip Morris International (PMI) employed 161 people (!) to oppose the proposed changes. The employees of the PMI met at least once with 233 MEPs (31% of the total) and spent almost 1.25 million GBP in a year for these meetings. I was less surprised to find out that PMI commissioned academic and economic studies to promote its claims and give negative opinion to European studies. Knowing what a hard battle is being fought behind the scene, I am even more interested in following the fate of the proposed review.

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