marlboro-cigarettes-iii-1562181.jpg
Photograph: Freeimages.com/Miroslav S.

The European Commission has ignored calls for more transparency in its dealings with the tobacco industry, a watchdog said Monday, ratcheting up criticism sparked by a 2012 lobbying scandal that ended the career of the bloc's then health commissioner.

"This is a missed opportunity ... to show global leadership in the vital area of tobacco lobbying," European ombudsman Emily O'Reilly said in a statement. "It appears that the sophistication of global lobbying efforts by big tobacco continues to be underestimated."

Health commissioner John Dalli left his post in late 2012 after being accused of staging confidential meetings with tobacco lobbyists and of knowing that an acquaintance was using Dalli's name to solicit bribes from a tobacco company.

The commission - the European Union's executive - has an important role in setting EU legislation on smoking and tobacco products. Its clampdown on the harmful effects of smoking have led to intense lobbying efforts by the tobacco industry.

In November, O'Reilly said the entire commission - with the exception of Dalli's former department - was not being proactive enough about publishing information on meetings with the tobacco industry.

This was in breach of World Health Organization (WHO) rules and guidelines on tobacco lobbying, she said at the time, recommending that details of all commission meetings with tobacco lobbyists or their legal representatives should be published.

The EU's executive responded in January, rejecting O'Reilly's findings and stating that it "complies in full" with WHO obligations. Its overriding principles regarding lobby groups are "transparency, integrity and equality of treatment," the letter said.

Meetings with tobacco industry representatives are "very few," and there is "no evidence that meetings have been kept 'secret'," the EU executive argued, in the response submitted by President Jean-Claude Juncker.

But O'Reilly said Monday that it was not enough to meet the minimum legal standards. "Public health demands the highest standard," she added.

Corporate Europe Observatory, a campaign group that seeks to challenge big business, threw its weight behind the ombudsman.

"If the commission does not even take the risks of undue lobbying influence seriously for this most controversial sector, then how can the public have any trust in its overall ability to protect the public interest?" Olivier Hoedeman said.

Latest news

Famine declared in parts of South Sudan: 100,000 facing starvation

More than 100,000 people are facing starvation in parts of violence-plagued South Sudan, three UN agencies said Monday as they declared famine in parts of the country.

North Korean envoy to Malaysia: 'We cannot trust the investigation'

North Korea "cannot trust the investigation" by Malaysian police into the death last week of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, Pyongyang's ambassador to Malaysia said Monday.

Kim Dotcom loses latest round in extradition saga

German internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has lost another legal round after the New Zealand High Court ruled that he and three of his colleagues can be extradited to the United States, but he said Monday his fight is far from over.

Thai monks clash with police on fifth day of high-profile temple raid

Several monks were injured early Monday in clashes with Thai police at a Buddhist temple where thousands of officers have been searching for a former abbot wanted on money laundering and land encroachment charges.

Cambodia passes bill easing requirements to abolish political parties

Cambodia's parliament passed a controversial bill on Monday allowing the government to abolish political parties whose members have been convicted of criminal charges, a senior opposition lawmaker has confirmed to dpa.

Former VP Moreno wins first round of Ecuador's presidential elections

Leftist former vice president Lenin Moreno has won the first round of presidential elections in Ecuador on Sunday, according to preliminary results released by the country's electoral authority.

Report: US and Russia supply over half of global arms

The United States and Russia supplied more than half of the world's arms over the past five years, a period that saw arms transfers reach their highest volume since the end of the Cold War, a Swedish-based research institute said Monday.

Messi's last minute penalty saves Barcelona from shock draw

Barcelona beat Leganes 2-1 with a last minute penalty from Lionel Messi in the Spanish first division on Sunday.

At least 30 injured after explosion in Bogota

A explosion in the Macarena area of Bogota injured at least 30 people on Sunday, many of them police officers who were guarding a bull running through the streets of the Colombian capital.

Vojvodina institutions hold conference on Bunjevci's non-Croat ethnic background

There are around 16,000 members of the Bunjevci community in Vojvodina who deny their Croat ethnic background. They are represented by the Bunjevci National Council which enjoys the support of state authorities, and, since the change of government in Vojvodina, of the provincial authorities as well.

SpaceX rocket blasts off from historic launch pad en route to ISS

A commercial rocket built by SpaceX is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) with a load of research equipment, cargo and supplies, NASA said Sunday.

Defence deals worth 1.2 billion dollars announced at key UAE show

Deals worth nearly 4.4 billion dirhams (1.2 billion dollars) were reached at a major defence show that opened Sunday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an official said.