Tag Archive: European Parliament

Electronic Cigarettes Survive Sweeping Tobacco Regulations

On October 7, the European Parliament finally passed new regulations governing the multi-billion dollar tobacco market.   The new legislation aims at tightening up the 2001 Tobacco Products Directive.  Some of the new sanctions placed on the tobacco industry include:  bigger warning signs on cigarette packs, the elimination of “10-pack” cigarettes, and also a ban on menthol and other flavored additives.  Some of these regulations, if passed by the European Council, would not take effect for another five to ten years.

After intense lobbying from the growing electronic cigarette industry, including global tobacco companies, the European Parliament refused to include the European Commission’s recommendation to classify electronic cigarettes like other medicinal products.  The new tobacco regulations still need approval by the 28 European Union government leaders in the European Council, who along with the European Commission, want electronic cigarettes controlled under medical regulations.  There will soon be an intriguing battle in Brussels.   The European Council has endorsed the European’s Parliament’s philosophy on marketing electronic cigarettes as medicines.  However, the European Council would allow tobacco companies more time to acquire medicines marketing authorization.

Should electronic cigarettes be regulated as tobacco products or should they be sold in pharmacies as medicinal products?  Research claims that 85 percent of electronic cigarette users start in order to help them quit smoking.  Electronic cigarettes also cost 90 percent less than your traditional cigarette.  Most electronic cigarette users think that smoking electronic cigarettes is less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes.  However, health experts are still divided on the long-term effects of using electronic cigarettes, and they are still years away from uncovering these effects.  At the moment, there is yet a clear answer for the European Union on how to regulate electronic cigarettes.




EU Passes Crippling Regulations On Tobacco Industry

On Tuesday, October 8, 2013, European lawmakers approved sweeping new regulations governing the multibillion-dollar tobacco market.  The new regulations include more visible and more extensive health warnings on cigarette packs and a ban on menthol in order to further curb smoking. After months of bitter debate and strong lobbying campaigns by members of the tobacco industry, the European Parliament voted in Strasbourg to dismiss the claims by the tobacco industry that the proposed regulations were disproportionate and limited consumer freedom. The lawmakers voted to impose warning labels covering 65 percent of cigarette packs to be shown above the brand logo. Current warning labels cover only 30-40 percent of packages. In addition, the inclusion of gruesome pictorials, for example showing cancer-infested lungs, may also be permitted to cover the cigarette packs.

Before the regulations can enter into force, the legislature still must reach a compromise with the 28 European Union governments on certain points. The new proposed rules were viewed by the World Health Organization and EU health officials as an important milestone.  However, this milestone does not serve as the end of the quest to stop people from smoking and keep teens from ever picking up a cigarette.

Smoking bans in public, limitations on tobacco firms’ advertising, and other measures over the past decade have seen the number of smokers fall from an estimated 40 percent of the EU’s 500 million citizens to 28 percent now. Still, treatment of smoke-related diseases costs about 25 billion euros ($34 billion) a year, and the bloc estimates there are around 700,000 smoking-related deaths per annum across the 28-nation bloc.

The European Union’s Fight for LGBT Rights in Partner Countries

On October 2, 2013, Nick Westcott, the European Union’s most senior official in charge with relations in Africa, proclaimed the European Union should stop lecturing Africa about gay rights.  Westcott believes the European Union needs to be understanding of Africa’s cultural differences.  When asked to elaborate on cultural issues at a debate in Brussels about European Union foreign policy, Westcott stated “We can lecture about lesbian, gays and bisexuals until the cows come home. And it will have a wholly counterproductive effect on our usefulness in Africa. We need to focus on fundamental values.”

Protecting the rights of the LGBT community is a fundamental value of the European Union.  Westcott’s stance on how to handle gay rights in Africa is contrary to the European Union’s overall foreign policy on the rights of gays and lesbians in partner countries.  Article 21 of the the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.The principle of equal treatment is a fundamental value for the European Union, which is going to great lengths to combat homophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In July 2012, the European Parliament released a resolution to help combat violence against lesbian women and the rights of the LGBT community in Africa.  In July 2013, the European Parliament submitted another resolution condemning a law passed by Nigeria that criminalizes not only same-sex marriage, but those who fail to denounce them. Even more than that, the law made it illegal to show a public display of affection to someone of the same sex.

The European Union’s fight for LGBT rights also extends to other parts of the world.  The European Union recently condemned Serbia’s ban  of a gay pride parade for the third consecutive year.  They have also condemned the Ukraine for its new laws banning propaganda of homosexuality, and threatened the Ukraine’s ties to the European Union because of it.  It appears Westcott’s opinion on how to handle LGBT rights in Africa is not the majority view of the European Union.

Et Tu, European Union? The EU’s Plan to Cull the Seal Population

The sealing industry of Canada believes that the EU’s seal culling plan is an act of hypocrisy. The European Parliament (EP) has recently approved a plan to manage the troublesome seal population due to concern of the decrease in fish stocks.  In September of this year, the EP called upon the European Commission to investigate whether the reduction in fish stocks was due to their natural predators, like seals, and if so, to then create a management plan that would help regulate the predator populations. This plan includes working with those member States that affected by the lack of fish.

In Canada, sealing is a commercialized industry where the seals are used for food, fuel and clothing. The Canadian sealing industry argues that seal harvesting is an economic mainstay for their numerous rural communities, and that seals are a valuable natural resource. Rob Cahill of the Fur Institute of Canada argued that the EU plans to be wasteful with the seals that are killed because they will only be used for personal consumption rather than being turned into commercial products (i.e. clothing and fuel).

In 2009, the EP voted to ban commercial seal products, prompting Canada to challenge the EP’s decision in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the only global international organization that deals with rules of trade between nations. The EU initiated the ban due to concern about the welfare of the animals because of the doubts expressed regarding the inhumane and unnecessarily painful way that the seals were being killed. Since some Member States had already decided that they wanted to ban the import and use of sealskins or products, the EP and Council decided to ban the trade of seal products in the EU. This ban also applies to imported products.

Not everyone agrees with Canada though. Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada, argues that what the EU is proposing will actually kill fewer seals than those killed for commercial purposes. The purpose of the seal culling is to protect marine ecosystems; it would seem pointless to kill so many seals that it would have a negative impact on the marine ecosystem.

Regardless of what happens with the seals, there is something far greater at stake for Canada. If Canada does not drop its WTO challenge, at least 100 members of the EP have vowed that they will not vote in favor of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement that is to be signed by the EU and Canada this year. This is important because it would “liberalize trade in goods and services could bring a potential 20% boost to bilateral trade and GDP gains of up to $12 billion for Canada by 2014.

A Breath of Fresh Air from the Eastern EU

In the midst of EU economic turmoil roiling from the Greek economic crisis and the systemic corruption that led up to and is arguably responsible for it (also discussed by the Task Force for Financial Integrity and Economic Development) Monica Macovei, Romanian MEP to the European Parliament and former Romanian Minister of Justice, offers a refreshing new perspective from the East.  Since being elected to the European Parliament in 2009, Macovei has directed her long-time focus of working to curb corruption at the national level to her newest post at the EU level in Brussels. Her varied leadership positions such as, for example, anti-corruption adviser to the Macedonian Prime Minister, trainer with the European Commission (TAIEX) in the fight against corruption and judicial reform in EU candidate countries, expert on judicial reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the Council of Europe, and founding member of the Romanian Chapter of Transparency International, indicate her breadth and depth of experience with regard to anti-corruption measures in her home country and region.

Now, as a Romanian MEP, Macovei has continued her work to fight corruption at the level of the European Parliament and has done so with resounded support and success.  Last year, Macovei spearheaded, gained overwhelming support for and ultimately saw to the European Commission’s adoption of the EU’s Resolution to fight corruption (B7-0481/2011). This anti-corruption Resolution runs the gamut in terms of addressing corruption at the EU level, highlighting that corruption is “an area of particularly serious crime with a cross-border dimension”, which is listed by Article 83 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and recognizing that corruption “undermines the rule of law” and “hampers the economic recovery of Member States hit by the economic and financial crisis.” (B7-0481/2011).  The Resolution calls on the European Commission to move forward with and implement a number of obligations that it had previously agreed to, such as implementing the OECD’s Convention on combatting bribery of foreign officials and meeting its obligations under the UN Convention Against Corruption.  Finally, the Resolution calls on the Commission to highlight the fight against corruption by putting it on the security agenda for future years.

One can surmise from looking at the number of types of corruption that the Resolution addresses, as well as the strong support it received from the European Parliament when it was passed (see video discussion), that corruption is recognized as a problem that crosses national borders and affects not just Member states with a reputation for corruption, but the greater group as well.  This Resolution is a first step towards tackling at the EU level a problem that has shown itself to be both pervasive and crippling for all parties involved.

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