SFP statement: Ombudsman ruling of maladministration in Commission’s dealings with the tobacco industry

Thursday, 08 December 2016

Brussels – The Smoke Free Partnership notes with alarm that despite a clear, strong-worded ruling of maladministration issued today by the European Ombudsman, the European Commission’s meetings with the tobacco industry at the highest level continue uninterrupted.

SFP welcomes the final ruling of the Ombudsman in her investigation regarding the application of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The decision finds that by refusing to implement proactive disclosure of meetings with the tobacco industry help by officials in all Commission departments in line with the practice in place at DG SANTE, the European Commission is guilty of maladministration.

The European Commission’s refusal to adopt the Ombudsman’s recommendation is very uncommon and, outrageously, remained unchanged despite repeated calls, ample time, and practical solutions available to improve its transparency practices with regard to the tobacco industry. Instead, the tobacco industry has continued having unchecked and intransparent access to the highest political levels, while the EU’s obligations under an international treaty were cast aside.

At a time where citizens’ confidence in the EU institutions and its mission is dwindling, the Ombudsman’s ruling emphasises the need for greater transparency and accountability of elected and unelected officials alike. SFP will continue working to inform policy makers about the EU’s obligation to ensure the integrity of its decision-making and to protect it from the vested interests of an industry that has killed 100 million people.


Note to editors:


Anca Toma Friedlaender, SFP Senior Policy Advisor, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +32.2.430.7358

The Ombudsman case:

Following a complaint lodged by Corporate Europe Observatory, the European Ombudsman in October 2015 recommended that the Commission undertake the “proactive online publication of all meetings of all Commission staff with tobacco lobbyists” as practiced by the Directorate General for Health.

In its response, the European Commission argued once again that its Staff Regulations and ethics guidelines, along with its transparency policy of meetings held by Commissioner Cabinets and Directors-General implemented in November 2014, are sufficient to secure the accountability and integrity of policy making within its services.

The final Ombudsman recommendation is available at

Background on article 5.3 of the Framework Convention

The FCTC is an international legally binding treaty to which the EU and all its Member States are Parties. Article 5.3 of the FCTC requires that, “in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”.

Article 5.3 guidelines further require Parties to adopt comprehensive and effective efforts in “all branches of government that may have an interest in, or the capacity to, affect public health policies with respect to tobacco control”. The guidelines also require, inter alia, transparency and accountability of all contacts between officials and the tobacco industry (Guidelines Recommendation 2.2), the formulation of standards for public officials when dealing with the tobacco industry (Guidelines Recommendation 4.2).

More information at


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