Brussels: new example of collusion between the Commission and the tobacco lobby

While the EU finds itself embroiled in one scandal after another involving collusion with some of the most harmful lobbies from glyphosate to neonicotinoids, the Canard Enchaîné exposes a new example of collusion between the Commission and the tobacco industry in its March 28, 2018 issue.

(Cet article est une reprise en anglais de l'article déjà consacré au jeu de dupes de la Commission européenne que vous trouverez ici)


The satirical French newspaper has indeed made a shocking revelation. On April 11, 2018, a conference entitled “Contraband, counterfeits, and the financing of terrorism,” organized in Brussels by the Robert Schuman Foundation, will be presided over by Jean-Dominique Giuliani.

In reality, however, this conference is being financed by none other than Philip Morris International, the tobacco industry giant. And, shockingly, Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, and Julian King, Commissioner of the Security Union, will both be present at this conference. Obviously, Pierre Moscovici sanctimoniously affirms he is unaware that Philip Morris International is financing the conference. This information, however, appears quite clearly on the copy of the invitation included below.

As for the World Health Organization, all countries having ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are supposed to take safeguards against the dealings of this industry in the definition and the implementation of their public policies. As article 5.3 of the Convention stipulates, “In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.” In other words, it is strictly forbidden for administrative or political officials to attend an event sponsored by tobacco companies.

So how can Pierre Moscovici, Julian King, Olivier Onidi, the Deputy Director of Internal Affairs of the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament Arnaud Danjean and Nathalie Griesback, senior officials in security services like Bruno Dalles, former Director of the National Service of the French Judicial Customs Department and current head of Tracfin, the French anti-money laundering organization, Will Van Germert, Director of Europol, or even Patrick Calvar, former General Director of French Homeland Security, Frederic Humphries of the FBI, or representatives of internationally renowned associations like Jack Radish of the OECD or Etienne Sanz de Acedo of the International Trademark Association accept to participate in this Philip Morris International conference? How can the Robert Schuman Foundation agree to associate the name of one of the EU’s founding fathers with one of the worst lobbies in existence? And what exactly do Microsoft, Bolloré, or Sanofi stand to gain from their involvement?

Let’s give the speakers the benefit of the doubt, but let’s inform them of the complicity of tobacco companies in the illegal tobacco trade

It is of course possible that the speakers at this conference are sincere, that they simply wish to present their work, their studies, their research, their projects… But that they are quite simply unaware of the role tobacco companies play in the organization and the supply of the illegal tobacco trade. The goal of this article is, therefore, to inform these individuals so that they can no longer say, “I didn’t know,” and, furthermore, to incite them to take advantage of the forum offered to them by Philip Morris on April 11th to denounce the duplicity of the tobacco industry.

How many of the speakers are being paid?

On another note, it would have been interesting if the Canard Enchaîné had gone further by asking which speakers at this conference are being paid to participate.

Financial links between Philip Morris, the ADIT, and the ALCCI

It would have been equally fascinating for the Canard Enchaîné to explain the financial links between Philip Morris and the two associations co-organizing this conference: Alain Juillet’s ADIT and ALCCI. We plan to revisit this topic in a later article.

A conference organized at a critical moment for the tobacco industry

The Canard Enchâiné also could have questioned the motivations behind holding the conference at this precise moment—because the timing is far from innocent. As a matter of fact, this conference is set to take place in the middle of the revision of the Directive on Tobacco Taxation, and as traceability systems for tobacco products are being implemented, two subjects that each represent stakes of several hundred million euros for the tobacco companies. Incidentally, of the many million adolescent smokers hooked at a young age thanks in large part to affordable prices, one teen in three who begins smoking will go on to become a frequent smoker in adulthood.

Concerning the revision of the Directive on Taxation, the tobacco companies are aiming to obtain an advantageous system for themselves, to preserve ad-valorem and specific taxes which permit them to create artificial discounts on bulk products, i.e. cartons of cigarettes, which are in reality strictly comparable, thus avoiding a debate akin to that enveloping GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple) on the fiscal optimisation that tobacco companies practice with dexterity.

Concerning traceability, as France Culture explains, the cigarette manufacturers are trying to conserve the very favourable provisions they obtained from the Commission following the Tobacco Products Directive in 2014 and again in late 2017 with the delegated and implementing acts, which can still be called into question by the member states, the European parliament, or the European Court of Justice. On another note, the quality of the speakers at the Philip Morris conference on April 11, 2018 will expose the privileged links existing between certain European decision-makers and tobacco companies.

As for the traceability of tobacco products set to be implemented beginning in May 2019, the Commission seems willfully disinterested in strictly applying the 2012 WHO Protocol devised “to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products,” which forbids all concessions proffered to tobacco companies for imposing texts that entrust them with essential missions in the elaboration and the implementation of these systems. Yet, highly paradoxically, the EU itself ratified this WHO Protocol on June 26, 2016. The fact that this protocol is now being trampled upon should incite the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, to intervene, as more than 600 European deputies voted for the protocol’s ratification on June 7, 2016.

But the Commission’s decision, which remains highly contested, is still far from being applied. This is worrying the tobacco companies and a certain number of their friends within the Commission—and this worry is the main reason why they are now investing so heavily in public affairs events, such as the conference scheduled for April 11, 2018.

Can a case for the non-conformity of the Commission to the WHO Protocol be brought before the European Court of Justice?

The French MEP Younous Omarjee already filed an objection to the delegated act of the Commission in January 2018. The Commission succeeded in having this objection rejected on February 20, 2018 after unprecedented effective “persuasion,” on the part of the ENVI Committee, and very strong action by the main anti-tobacco associations: Florence Berteletti’s Smoke Free Partnership (SFP), Luk Joossens’ European Cancer Leagues, and Francisco Rodriguez Lozano’s European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP), linked by their subsidy payments, as already detailed in several articles. Many other MEPs have announced they are currently preparing resolutions to modify articles 15 and 16 of the Tobacco Directive to make them conform to Article 8 of the WHO Protocol. Furthermore, the 9 member states who have as of now ratified the WHO Protocol (France, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Austria, Cyprus) are unsure of how to apply the delegated and implementingacts without directly violating the WHO legislation currently protected by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Moreover, the WHO has announced that the 40 ratifications will be obtained by July 2, 2018, and that the Protocol will enter into force on October 1, 2018. It seems, thus, inevitable that the European Court of Justice be addressed as to the conformity of the delegated and implementingacts to the WHO Protocol.

Consequently, what will President Emmanuel Macron, who promised during his electoral campaign via a letter addressed to the Confederation of Tobacconists on March 19, 2017 to commit to implementing the WHO Protocol, do in France? Will he keep his promise, or will he side with the European Commission’s conflicting demands, which would satisfy the tobacco companies?

The numbers that prove the tobacco companies are supplying the illegal tobacco market

With this April 11, 2018 conference, the tobacco companies want to obscure their involvement in the organization and supply of the illegal tobacco trade, which has nonetheless been exposed time and time again. For example, in an article published on March 3, 2017 in Valeurs Actuelles, Philippe Juvin, an MEP from the EPP Group, affirmed that 98.8% of the illegal tobacco business stems from tobacco companies’ own factories, with counterfeits only amounting to 0.2% and Illicit Whites just 1%. To illustrate this, he referred to the case of Andorra: while only 120 tons of tobacco are necessary to satisfy Andorra’s domestic market, 850 tons are delivered by tobacco companies in order to supply the black market networks in France and Spain. This, of course, didn’t prevent tobacco companies from demanding that France elaborate a plan to fight the black market during a meeting with Budget Minister Gérald Darmanin also attended by Customs Director Rodolphe Gintz, on March 16, 2018. To fight the black market, therefore, consisting of the same cigarettes that they sell themselves! This is but the same elaborate show of smoke and mirrors witnessed daily in the tobacco industry, but it’s noteworthy due to the fact that it reveals the extent to which these practices mount the highest levels of the chain of command. We now expect Pierre Moscovici, Julian King, Arnaud Danjean, Nathalie Griesbeck, Pedro Serrano, Simon Riodet, Bruno Dalles, or Nicolas Ilett to publicize these figures on April 11, 2018 and to denounce the manipulations of their host, Philip Morris.

The bizarre quantitative study carried out by tobacco companies/KPMG on the illegal tobacco market

Tobacco companies’ official communication on the impact of the illegal tobacco trade is anchored in a quantitative study which they funded, carried out annually by KPMG. This study appears serious at first glance and always benefits from extensive and lenient media coverage. Except the study’s results are falsified year after year, as the French anti-tobacco association the National Committee Against Smoking (CNCT) claimed on June 8, 2017. To increase the relevance of the debates on April 11, 2018, it would be useful for the Robert Schuman Foundation to request that the CNCT, presided over by Professor Yves Martinet, come to the forum to present the organization’s research. The CNCT could then further develop the logic put forth by Director Emmanuelle Béguinot on April 3, 2018 on France Culture during a debate entitled, “The Traceability of Cigarettes: the EU has not resisted the tobacco lobby.” This would no doubt be of great interest both to the speakers and the audience present at the April 11, 2018 conference.

The tobacco contraband that finances terrorism, or “when the wise man points at the sky, the fool looks at his finger”

In order to be capable of continuing to cheat with impunity, in order to continue to be able to supply these black market networks, tobacco companies are attempting to depict themselves as victims through elaborate communication campaigns, sympathetic press releases, and phony white papers and books. This is the real goal behind the April 11, 2018 conference, the mere title of which, “Contraband, counterfeits, and the financing of terrorism,” is an enormous intellectual scam. We have noted that counterfeits — which, incidentally, fall under the umbrella of contraband, thus raising the question as to why they would even be differentiated in the first place — account for just 0.2% of the black market, a number published in November 2016 by Seita-Imperial Tobacco in the French newspaper Le Losange. While counterfeiting is a reality in the luxury domain, for pharmaceutical products or even automobile parts, it is absolutely not so in the tobacco industry for one simple reason: the fabrication of a pack of cigarettes only costs around ten cents. It is therefore much more profitable to buy tobacco coming out of factories located in countries with low tobacco taxes rather than to produce it. Especially considering that the tobacco companies are willingly selling the tobacco so as to avoid illegally transporting it themselves.

It’s for this same reason that the second part of the title highlights the farce, but most of all, the provocation at hand: if mafia networks and terrorists finance their organizations through the illegal tobacco market, they do so with tobacco made and sold by the tobacco companies themselves! The overproduction and oversupply of tobacco consciously organized by tobacco companies thus permit these networks to thrive. And this is the reason why the tobacco companies are refusing to implement the WHO Protocol, because they reject any inspection in their production facilities and into their distribution chains. This is also why the tobacco companies are fighting against the ratification of the WHO protocol, as Reuters revealed in August 2017 with its exposé known as the Philip Morris Files. Here, again, we expect from this point forward that Pierre Moscovici, Julian King, Arnaud Danjean, Nathalie Griesbeck, Pedro Serrano, Simon Riodet, Bruno Dalles, or Nicolas Ilett demand explanations of these facts from their host, Philip Morris International, on April 11, 2018. Because, as of now, they are aware of this fraud compounded by intellectual swindling. The speakers have a duty to demand these explanations since, as things stand, political officials are falling into this cunning trap so carefully devised by the tobacco companies. For example, the socialist MEP Gilles Pargneaux who, in his speech on March 23, 2018, spoke at length about this fictitious source of terrorism funding.

This reality, these facts, these numbers must be exposed during the April 11, 2018 conference.

Henceforth, the speakers of this conference have a duty to truth to denounce the practices of the tobacco industry, since they can no longer say, “We didn’t know.”

Pierre Moscovici, Julian King, Arnaud Danjean, Nathalie Griesbeck, Pedro Serrano, Simon Riodet, Bruno Dalles, or Nicolas Ilett must have the decency to expose the true reality of the illegal tobacco trade, to denounce the hypocritical posture of tobacco companies and that of Philip Morris International in particular, even if and especially since this organization is hosting them.

Pierre Moscovici, Julian King, Arnaud Danjean, Nathalie Griesbeck must additionally demand that the 19 member states that have yet to ratify the WHO Protocol do so as soon as possible, before July 2, 2018 as requested by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s Director-General, who has, by the way, announced a visit to Brussels during the month of April.

Pierre Moscovici, Julian King, Arnaud Danjean, Nathalie Griesbeck, Pedro Serrano, Simon Riodet, Bruno Dalles, or Nicolas Ilett must also demand that the tobacco companies, and notably Philip Morris International, solemnly and publicly commit to cease their opposition to the ratification and implementation of this international treaty. The Robert Schuman Foundation must, on its end, invite European ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, representatives of anti-tobacco associations, along with members of the press—so that the investigative work undertaken by Le Canard Enchaîné may continue.

This April 11, 2018 conference must simultaneously constitute a beginning and an end. The end of the tacit acceptance of the dirty tricks of the tobacco industry, with its back-room dealings and conferences between Commissioners, their officials, and tobacco industry lobbyists. The beginning of a new era, one of transparency, of verified facts, of data, and simply, of one firmly rooted in the application of international treaties and of the law.

Let us be present on April 11, 2018 at this conference, held from 8h30 to 17h00 at the Egmont Palace, place du petit Sablon, in Brussels, to gauge the extent to which these speakers are independent from the tobacco industry.

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