Just before last Wednesday’s midday briefing for journalists at the European Commission, one of New Europe journalists received a phone call and an email from inside the European Parliament, suggesting that we ask a ‘helpful’ question for the tobacco lobby. “We are one of the few parties actually working with the Tobacco industry. And for a number of reasons we have been rather involved in the Tobacco initiative that was the origin of this rather "interesting" issue.
“So we are wondering if it would suit your time schedule to participate in today's Commission mid-day briefing asking about the Commission's law making? Surely there must be some standards even here? Or is it comme-il faut to buy your way to favourite laws? And what more, based on these interesting dealings, will the directive be scrapped and rewritten?”
In the phone call, they named Swedish Match as the company they were “working with”.
Of course, we declined this offer and instead asked the Commission to produce a resignation letter, which they have failed to do.
We are, of course investigating the sender’s links to the tobacco lobby.
At around the same time, 12:18 to be exact, as the Midday briefing began, persons unknown added three paragraphs to the Wikipedia page for Snus, the controversial smokeless tobacco.
“In October 2012, the European Union's commissioner for health and consumer policy, John Dalli, resigned, following an investigation by OLAF, the European Anti-fraud Office, into a complaint made in by tobacco producer Swedish Match. “ Well, as it was known by that point, the Commissioner had put out a statement and held a video interview with New Europe where he said in the clearest terms that he had not resigned.
“OLAF found that an unnamed Maltese entrepreneur approached Swedish Match using his contacts with Mr. Dalli, and seeking payments in exchange for influence over possible snus legislation, the new EU's Tobacco Products Directive expected during autumn 2012.” And now the final paragraph added: “Swedish Match commented that she expects that proven scientific facts regarding snus, are considered in a fair legal process for the proposal of a new Tobacco Products Directive.” That does look a little out of place to some. The interesting point is that the edit was made from a computer with an IP address registered to the European Parliament in Brussels.