Green MEPs say Barroso must answer over tobacco lobby contacts

Ahead of testimony in European Court of Justice, MEPs say Dalli-Barroso encounter is semi-final in ‘transparency versus lobbycracy’ battle inside European Commission

John Dalli (left) and EC president José Manuel Barroso
John Dalli (left) and EC president José Manuel Barroso

Two Green MEPs who say John Dalli was framed by the tobacco lobby, have suggested that his “light-hearted” dismissal was an attempt at derailing the Tobacco Products Directive.

Bart Staes and José Bové said that European Commission president José Manuel Barroso “will be in a real big mess” if the former European Commissioner for health and consumer policy is proved right by the European Court of Justice in his case of unfair dismissal against the European Commission.

“The claim that this whole affair was a set-up to get rid of Dalli would gain credibility and the EC and anti-fraud unit OLAF would then have to explain why all this was done in the strange way it was. Given the political importance of this case we will both be present at the EJC in Luxemburg”

Barroso is to testify in court over the complaint against the EC that Dalli filed, where he claimed he was fired on 16 October 2012 based on an OLAF investigation he had never been given access to.

OLAF’s regulator – the supervisory committee – was not given the report in time to assess whether the whole inquiry had been carried out lawfully. When it did, the committee accused OLAF of using questionable methods, a lack of respect for procedures and the breach of fundamental human rights.

Dalli claims his rights were violated and that he never signed any paper confirming his dismissal.  

“Dalli says he was framed  and given all the evidence that we saw so far, we are afraid that he is right. If this is the case, this would mean a further blow to the credibility of the European Institutions,” Staes and Bové said in a statement.

“A mere four months before his presidency ends Barroso has to testify for the first time in public why he dismissed Dalli so light-heartedly,” Staes said.

“The truth might well be that Dalli had one or two illegitimate meetings with tobacco lobbyists, but also that EC hotshots in the Barroso gang who fired him for this had even more undisclosed meetings with lobbyists.”

The EU ombudsman is now inquiring over a breach by the EC’s secretariat-general of  the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, when the Barroso cabinet met several times with tobacco lobbyists without disclosing these meetings.

The EU Ombudsman has given the EC until 31 July to disclose the initial letter from Swedish Match sent to the EC’s secretary-general Catherine Day on 14 May 2012, in which it reported allegations of bribery against former commissioner John Dalli.

“We would not rule out that the dismissal of Dalli was a set-up with the agenda to delay or derail the upcoming Tobacco Products Directive (TPD),” Staes said.

“The tobacco industry demonstrated an aggressive and unprecedented lobby-offensive to stop this legislation initiated by Dalli. Just this week Philip Morris International announced it will take the EC to court over this new legislation.”

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