EU health commissioner resigns over tobacco inquiry
John Dalli, the EU commissioner for health, quit yesterday after an anti-fraud investigation confirmed an attempt to influence tobacco legislation at European level.
OLAF (the EU anti-fraud office) started an investigation after a complaint made last May by Swedish Match, a Swedish tobacco producer.
The company claimed that a Maltese businessman used his personal contacts with Mr Dalli to gain financial advantages and promised, in exchange, to influence future legislative proposals on tobacco products.
The claim refers in particular to the EU export ban on snus, also known as “Swedish snuff”, a tobacco derivate taken orally.
The anti-fraud office couldn’t proof Mr Dalli’s direct involvement, but said that “he was aware of these events”.
The commission stated that this fraud case has not affected the decision-making process and confirmed that no transaction occurred between the Swedish company and the businessman.
The Maltese commissioner claimed his innocence in interviews, saying he was the victim of the tobacco lobby. In a video interview published on New Europe website he said: “The fact that this directive will not see the light of day is a big gain to the tobacco industry.”
Alyn Smith, SNP member of the European Parliament’s Agricultural and Rural Development committee, expressed his deep regret for this resignation. He said: “[…] From my perspective, where I have certainly crossed swords with Mr Dalli on a number of issues, I have personally always found him willing to listen and very much on top of his brief.”
John Dalli, 64, had been involved in Maltese politics for over 25 years. He was first elected MP in 1987, was cabinet minister in several governments and served as finance minister three times. He became the EU’s commissioner for health and consumer policy in 2012.
Maros Sefcovic, the Commission vice president, will take on Dalli’s duties on an interim basis until a new Maltese commissioner is found.