The European Commission’s failure to be fully transparent about its meetings with tobacco industry representatives constitutes maladministration, according to the European Ombudsman, reports Reuters. Such transparency is required by the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
In a letter to the commission, ombudswoman Emily O’Reilly detailed preliminary conclusions from her office’s inquiry into EU executive contacts with the tobacco industry in 2020 and 2021. The investigation follows an earlier study concluded in 2016, when the ombudsman urged the commission to adopt the transparency policy of the EU health and food safety directorate-general. Apart from improvements at the tax and customs unit, this had not happened, the letter noted.
The ombudsman found a deficiency in record-keeping and a failure to keep and make available minutes on all commission meetings with tobacco interest representatives.
The ombudsman also questioned whether commission officials were limiting their interactions with the tobacco industry only to those that were “strictly necessary.”
EU institution contacts with lobbyists have come under scrutiny after a cash-for-influence scandal hit the European Parliament, two of whose members have been charged with corruption and money laundering in Belgium.
The ombudsman’s recommendations are not legally binding.