The European Parliament will formally demand sight of the report by OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud body, which preceded the resignation of former Health Commissioner John Dalli over alleged cash-for-influence from the Tobacco industry.
MEPs will also consider setting up a special committee of inquiry into the facts surrounding lobbying on the Tobacco Products Directive and the Commissioner's resignation.
Parliament has so far been denied access to the report, but the body’s lawyers told a conference of political party presidents yesterday (10 January) that it has a right to receive the report under “confidential conditions”.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz will request the report and invite European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and OLAF Director General Giovanni Kessler to meet in the next Conference of Presidents, a spokesman for the Greens told EURACTIV.
Commission meetings with lobbyists under scrutiny
The presidents will meet again next week. Leaders of the chamber’s political factions will decide after that whether to endorse a proposal by the Greens for a special committee to investigate the issue.
Green MEPs called on Wednesday (9 January) for such a special committee of inquiry to cast further light on the Commission’s relationship with tobacco lobbyists after they were left dissatisfied with the EU executive's answers to questions following Dalli's resignation.
Among the answers sent to the Parliament in December, the Commission disclosed that three meetings took place between tobacco lobbyists and a member of Barroso’s private office. Others took place with officials from the office of Catherine Day, the Commission's secretary-general.
MEPs have said the Commission contravened the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, of which it is a signatory.
Former legal chief attracts attention
A spokesman for the Greens said that a special committee would cover a wide-ranging series of issues, including questions surrounding the role of Michel Petite.
Petite served as the chief legal adviser to Commission Presidents Jacques Delors, Romano Prodi (as head of cabinet), and José Manuel Barroso – key insider roles – before joining the international law firm Clifford Chance’s Paris office in 2008.
The Commission’s decision to re-appoint Petite to its ethics committee on lobbying on 28 December 2012 has come under fire.
Critics claim that Clifford Chance's role as an adviser to tobacco major Philip Morris undermines confidence in Petite's ability to carry out his role impartially.
The Commission argues that there is no conflict of interest between Petite's role with the law firm and his role on the ethics committee.
Speaking at the European Parliament on Wednesday (9 January), MEP José Bové (Greens, France) said: “What lies at the core of all this is that binding rules…have been adopted notably article 5.3 of the [World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control] FCTC… which states very clearly that there cannot be any relationships that are under the table and that everything has to be done in a transparent manner.”
“There are clear rules, and those have not been applied,” Bové added.
"We are not being allowed to see the Olaf report, [nor] the Olaf supervisory committee's assessment of the Dalli dossier,” said MEP Bart Staes, (Greens, Belgium).
“We have put 150 questions to the commission, notably to Catherine Day, but the answers have told us nothing at all,” Staes added.
Dalli resigned as the EU's commissioner for health and consumer protection last week after an investigation connected him with an attempt to influence EU tobacco legislation.
The nomination of Tonio Borg, the deputy prime minister of Malta, nominated to succeed him, must be approved by the European Parliament after a hearing where the candidate is quizzed by MEPs.
Thurs. 17th January: Parliamentary Conference of Presidents to consider OLAF report, mull inquiry