On Tuesday, European Union Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly called on the European Commission to provide more data on its meetings with tobacco industry representatives.
In a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, O'Reilly deplored the lack of transparency surrounding Commission dealings with the tobacco lobby. Numerous departments of the Commission had meetings with tobacco representatives but only the health department proactively published thorough records of these interactions.
The ombudsman said that the departments of Climate Action, Trade, Taxation and Excise, and Internal Market published only records of meetings that senior officials or Commissioners had with tobacco lobbyists.
For some of the meetings, there are no notes available. "On the face of it, this is bad governance," said the ombudsman. "If minutes of meetings with tobacco interest representatives do not exist, it is difficult to see how the Commission can ensure that these interactions do not pose risks, either directly or indirectly, to public health policies."
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O'Reilly also wants to know what criteria the Commission uses to decide whether to talk to the tobacco lobby. The ombudsman opened the investigation in 2021 to ensure that current practices meet transparency requirements. Under agreements with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Commission is obliged to be “fully and proactively transparent” about its meetings with tobacco industry representatives.
The Commission has three months to respond to the ombudsman’s letter.