After Dalligate, Commission reappoints tobacco lobbyist to ethics panel

Philip Morris lawyer and former head of EC's legal services is retained on ethics panel.

As head of the EC's legal services, Michel Petite signed the  agreement to combat contraband and counterfeit cigarettes with Philip Morris International.
As head of the EC's legal services, Michel Petite signed the agreement to combat contraband and counterfeit cigarettes with Philip Morris International.

The European Commission has reappointed a tobacco lobbyist to its ethics commission on lobbyist, just two months since Maltese commissioner John Dalli was forced to resign his post in the wake of an OLAF investigation on lobbying.

French lawyer Michel Petite of London-based firm Clifford Chance, works for US tobacco giant Philip Morris and will be part of a three-man ethics panel advising the EU executive if it is OK for former commissioners to join private companies in the same sector as their old portfolios.

Former commissioners like Maltese fisheries commissioner Joe Borg took their expertise garnered in five years to a private advisory firm, inviting criticism over the EU's lack of a 'revolving doors' policy for outgoing commissioners.

Petite already sat on the ethics committee from 2009 to 2012, and formerly ran the European Commission's legal services.

In his services to Philip Morris, it transpired that Petite met with Commissioner officials in September 2011 and September 2012 - a fact revealed during the Dalligate affair when MEPs received answers to written answers (no. 15, page 36) which also dealt with Petite's meeting. "Petite mentioned that his law firm provided legal advice to a tobacco company (Philip Morris International) and set out his views on some legal issues of tobacco legislation."

Philip Morris operates a joint-venture with Swedish Match - the Swedish company that filed the complaint with the EC that Maltese entrepreneur Silvio Zammit had asked for a €60 million bribe to reverse a snus ban - for the sale of snus outside of Scandinavia and the United States.

The complaint led to the OLAF investigation that claimed there was circumstantial evidence that Commissioner John Dalli was aware of Zammit's bribe.

Philip Morris International also has a 12-year agreement signed with OLAF in 2004 to fight contraband cigarettes. The agreement is part of a €1.65 billion agreement between the Commission and Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, British-American Tobacco, and Philip Morris International, to address the problem of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes.

Brussels-based NGO, Corporate Europe Observatory, is filing a complaint about Petite with the European Ombudsman. "It is unacceptable for a tobacco lobbyist to be the commission's top ethics advisor ... This is a matter of common sense doubts about his independence and credibility," the group's Olivier Hoedeman told EUobserver.com

The European Commission has declared that Petite has lived up to rules for ex-officials to "behave with integrity and discretion" in their post-EU careers. "There is no reason to question Mr Petite's qualifications to fulfil his function as a member of the ad hoc ethical committee," she added.

The other people reappointed to the panel are Terry Wynn and Rafael Garcia-Valdecasas y Fernandez. Wynn is a British former MEP who is now a Methodist preacher; Garcia-Valdecasas y Fernandez is a Spanish former judge at the EU court in Luxembourg.

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John Mifsud
Obviously, the European Commission believes in enlisting the devil to fight sin.
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More than confirms the suspicion of the involvement of a manipulative, locally and internationally well connected, politically vindictive power broker in the John Dalli issue.
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Euro-mafia????????
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Shocking revelation. It seems that ethical principles are a malleable commodity within the EU to be applied as it suits the interests of the powers that are.