Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts tagged as European Commission

Romania’s allies indignant at travel ban slapped on former anti-corruption chief

Laura Codruța Kövesi, the favourite to become the first-ever EU public prosecutor, has been indicted on charges of abusing her position while,The charges, brought by prosecutors at the controversial Special Section for the Investigation of Magistrates (which exists outside the jurisdiction of Romania’s independent prosecutor general, answering directly to the country’s justice minister, Tudorel Toader), have also been accompanied by a travel ban, meaning that she cannot travel abroad.
Ms Kövesi, who is enormously popular in Romania and widely respected across Europe, has also been forbidden from talking to the press about specifics of the case. She did, however, tell journalists: I guess that some people are so worried that I might get the EU prosecutors job that Im not allowed to speak to the media anymore, adding that, the indictment is a measure intended to silence me, to harass all of us in the judicial system who did our job.The news that Ms Kövesi had been formally charged brought immediate and indignant reaction from senior European and NATO officials.I am concerned by news that Laura Codruţa Kövesi has been placed under judicial control.

The European parliament stands by its candidate for European public prosecutor, said Antonio Tajani, the president of the European parliament.Manfred Weber, the European People’s Party candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, called the decision concerning and unacceptable.Ska Keller, co-president of the Green-European Free Alliance in the European parliament, was particularly critical of the Romanian government.It is extremely dubious and worrying what is happening in Romania right now, she said.The Romanian government has been attempting to block Laura Codruţa Kövesi from becoming European chief public prosecutor for a long time. Now, a newly formed judicial unit that is directly controlled by exactly this government accuses her of corruption.
Romania must guarantee an independent investigation and full transparency.Romanias NATO allies have also been quick to react.
Kevin Hamilton, the Canadian ambassador to Romania, Moldova and Bulgaria wrote on : “I am troubled by reports that Laura Kövesi has been placed under judicial control by the Romanian authorities, prohibited from leaving the country, and banned from speaking to the media.”View on emerging-europe.com

Please follow and like us:

Big Tobacco’s push for Big Vape

Citizens’ initiative calls for vaping to be treated differently from traditional smoking – and is backed by industry associations.
By Katie Jennings2/26/19, 7:58 PM CET2/27/19, 10:01 AM CETAll major tobacco companies are moving into vaping | Niklas Hallen/AFP via Getty ImagesAll major tobacco companies are moving into vaping | Niklas Hallen/AFP via Getty ImagesLinkedInWhatsAppCommentPrintBig Tobacco has a new lobbying tactic in Brussels — people power.
A petition calling for vaping products to be treated differently from tobacco was this month registered with the European Commission, using a process that’s designed to give the public a say in decision-making.However, the campaign received a €10,000 contribution from U.K.-based Imperial Brands, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, and the individuals listed on the application include Imperial’s head of EU corporate affairs and representatives from national vaping industry lobbies.
As EU rules put the squeeze on cigarette sales, tobacco companies are expanding into vaping products and the industry is making huge efforts to ensure they avoid the regulatory fate of traditional smoking.The petition, which calls for looser controls on vaping products by having them treated separately from tobacco products, is part of that drive.Under the rules of the European Citizens’ Initiative process, the petition’s organizers have a year to collect 1 million signatures from at least seven EU countries. If that happens, the Commission must consider their request (although it can reject it).
The involvement of individuals with direct ties to the tobacco and vaping industries “reduces the [citizens’ initiative] tool to absurdity” — Olivier Hoedeman, researcher The Commission declined to name those behind the initiative — called “Let’s demand smarter vaping regulation” — when it was announced on February 12.But the subsequent registration listed Dustin Dahlmann and Mosè Giacomello, representatives of the German and Italian vaping industry associations, and Valerio Forconi, head of EU corporate affairs and a registered lobbyist for Imperial Brands.Also On Politico  Amsterdams Brexit bonanza Naomi OLearyAlso On PoliticoCancer and corruption: In Romania, its the same fightSarah Wheaton Forconi said Imperial is supporting grassroots activism by funding the campaign, and the individuals that registered the initiative said they are acting in a personal capacity.However, a corporate watchdog group called the petition an “abuse” of the system.
Tobacco companies are taking a different approach toward regulators with e-cigarettes than they did with traditional cigarettes | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images“Imperial Brands has vested commercial interests in getting vaping products excluded from the Tobacco Products Directive and is abusing a democratic tool for citizen participation,” he said.Imperial Brands (which used to be Imperial Tobacco Group and sells Gauloises cigarettes and Montecristo cigars) expanded into vaping through its subsidiary Fontem Ventures, which makes the brand Blu.
The U.S.and U.K.are its two biggest markets, and the company has also introduced the products in France, Germany and Italy.The petition argues the Commission needs to come up with a vaping policy that ensures “access to tobacco-free less harmful alternatives,” through “bespoke, evidence-based legislation” that takes vaping products away from the shadow of Big Tobacco.
A Commission spokesperson said that while companies cannot launch citizens’ initiatives, there is nothing in the rules to prohibit employees doing so in a personal capacity.Organizations “can promote or support initiatives provided that they do so with full transparency,” the Commission said.Flipping the playbook From the 1950s onward, tobacco companies worked to emphasize scientific uncertainty and downplay links between smoking and lung cancer, and nicotine and addiction.With vaping they are flipping the playbook.
All major tobacco companies are moving into vaping, including Altria (parent company of Philip Morris), British American Tobacco and Japan International Tobacco. In tandem with vaping industry associations, tobacco companies are relying on public health arguments to make the case that electronic cigarettes are “less harmful” than traditional ones.
“What [tobacco companies] were doing in the past was saying that there was no real evidence. In fact, it’s almost .
turning on its head at the minute,” said Martin McKee, a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.“We want to reduce the health impact of tobacco by encouraging smokers to switch to products with lower health risks like vaping ones” — Valerio Forconi, head of EU corporate affairs at Imperial BrandsVaping devices contain nicotine but not tobacco, heating a tank of liquid containing the addictive chemical to create a vapor that can be inhaled.
The EU cracked down on both tobacco and nicotine products as part of the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive, which limited the size and strength of e-cigarette tanks, restricted advertising and set rules on packaging.The Commission is scheduled to review the directive before May 2021.One of the aims of the citizens’ initiative is to repeal Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive, which outlines the regulations on vaping products, and have them dealt with under separate rules.“We want to reduce the health impact of tobacco by encouraging smokers to switch to products with lower health risks like vaping ones.
We support proportionate evidence-based regulation that encourages smokers to use alternative products that have the potential for reduced harm,” Forconi said.Several scientific studies have found vaping to be less harmful than traditional smoking.While England’s public health body has strongly endorsed e-cigarettes to reduce health harm, other researchers and officials, including European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, are urging caution.European Commissioner for Health Vytenis Andriukaitis | John Thys/AFP via Getty ImagesThe industry bolsters its argument by citing a 2015 review by Public Health England that found e-cigarettes are “around 95 percent safer” than traditional cigarettes.
“That figure has no credibility whatsoever,” said McKee, who co-authored a commentary in medical journal The BMJ challenging the methodology of the national health body’s review. “England is completely out of line with the rest of the world,” he said.Australia and Singapore have banned e-cigarettes and the U.S.is cracking down on flavored products, saying they appeal to kids.Vaping may not bring the same risk of lung cancer as smoking “but there are serious questions about cardiovascular disease and there are enough questions there that I think the precautionary principle should be adopted,” McKee said.An alternative, McKee said, would be to regulate e-cigarettes as a medicine, if there is evidence to show they could get people off nicotine completely.“I see no justification for rolling them out as consumer goods, that’s a completely different ballpark,” McKee said.Industry opposes this route, since it would mean much stricter regulatory scrutiny. The petition states that vaping should be considered separately from pharmaceutical products.‘Time is money’Imperial’s €10,000 has gone toward building a website on which people can add their signature to the petition, and which is expected to launch in a few weeks, according to Brandon Mitchener, a managing partner for consultancy Instinctif Partners, based in Brussels.The tobacco company contracted the consultancy to provide “monitoring and strategic advice on a number of issues but mainly related to vaping,” according to Imperial’s Forconi.
That contract was worth between €50,000 and €99,000 in 2018, according to an entry in the EU’s transparency registerImperial spent more than £700 million investing in next generation products through 2018, according to a company report.“Time is money and everyone is contributing a significant amount of time to ensure the success of this initiative” — Dustin Dahlmann and Mosè Giacomello, vaping association representativesForconi said it is “hard to predict” how much money Imperial would spend promoting the petition, adding the campaign “will mainly run through social media instead of using the traditional communication touchpoints.”Giacomello and Dahlmann, who represent national vaping industry associations in Italy and Germany, said they expect their associations and others from Ireland, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic and France “will contribute to the campaign according to [their] individual means.” “Time is money and everyone is contributing a significant amount of time to ensure the success of this initiative,” Giacomello and Dahlmann said in a joint statement, adding that their associations’ investments would likely be more than €10,000, and would meet the EU’s transparency requirements.Andriukaitis’ office declined to comment on the petition or the involvement of the tobacco and vaping industries. The health commissioner has previously said e-cigarettes should be included in smoke-free legislation, and branded the argument that e-cigarettes should be freed from regulation because they help people quit smoking as “ridiculous.
”This article is part of POLITICO for a complimentary trial.

Please follow and like us:

Saudi crown prince meets Chinese president, bags oil deal

BEIJING (AFP) – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday and bagged a $10-billion oil deal, pressing on with his diplomatic charm offensive in Asia following a global outcry over the Khashoggi killing.
Mohammed arrived in Beijing on Thursday following visits to Pakistan and India, showing the world that his country still has allies after the grisly murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
China is a good friend and partner to Saudi Arabia, Xi told Mohammed in a meeting in the Great Hall of the People.Saudi Arabia’s relations with China can be traced back a very long time in the past, the crown prince said.
Over such a long period of exchanges with China, we have never experienced any problems with China.He met with Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng earlier on Friday.Is the crown prince’s tour symbolic of Saudi Arabia’s pivot to the East? Yes, Najah al-Otaibi, a senior analyst at the pro-Saudi think-tank Arabia Foundation, told AFP.Riyadh wants to strengthen alliances in Asia — especially now with the continuing fallout with the United States over Khashoggi’s murder and other issues, and attempts by the EU to put Riyadh on a blacklist over money laundering allegations.
Khashoggi, a fierce critic of the prince, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October, a murder that tarnished the image of the kingdom and of the crown prince in particular.Riyadh initially denied the murder, then gave several conflicting accounts of Khashoggi’s death, and now claims he was killed in an unauthorised operation that did not involve Mohammed.
The murder sparked global indignation, with US lawmakers pushing for Washington to distance itself from the crown prince, but the White House has maintained close relations with Riyadh, a major ally in the Middle East.Separately, the European Commission wants to add Saudi Arabia to a money-laundering blacklist of governments that do too little to thwart the financing of terrorism and organised crime.
But China is looking to strengthen its economic ties with the kingdom, as Beijing pursues its ambitious Belt and Road trade infrastructure initiative, while Riyadh rolls out Saudi Vision 2030 — the crown prince’s major programme to diversify the national economy away from oil.Mohammed told the Chinese President they could join the two projects to realise more progress and jointly confront challenges.
Vice Premier Han suggested during his meeting with the crown prince that the two countries deepen partnerships in energy, infrastructure construction, finance, and high-tech.Trade and securityRiyadh’s national oil giant Saudi Aramco said it had signed an agreement to form a Saudi-Chinese joint venture — worth more than $10 billion — to develop a refining and petrochemical complex in northeastern Liaoning province.
The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority also announced the signing of 35 non-binding memorandums of understanding, including deals related to energy, mining, transportation and e-commerce.China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner.
As the kingdom diversifies its non-oil economy, it needs a variety of other investors with technical expertise, including the Chinese, Otaibi said.China steadfastly supports Saudi Arabia pushing a diversification of its economy and societal reforms, Xi told Mohammed, according to state broadcaster CCTV, adding he supported the hard work the kingdom has undertaken to promote stability and safety at home.National security is a potential area of cooperation between the Gulf state and China.The two countries should boost partnerships in counterterrorism and law enforcement, and exchange experience on combating extremism, Han said in his meeting with Mohammed, according to a report by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua.
The Saudis said they firmly supported Beijing’s efforts to keep the country secure, and opposed interference by external forces in China’s internal affairs, Xinhua added, paraphrasing remarks by the crown prince.Riyadh has remained silent over China’s treatment of Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in the far-western region of Xinjiang.Up to one million Uighurs and other minorities are being held in internment camps in Xinjiang as part of a draconian anti-terror and anti-separatist campaign, according to estimates cited by a UN panel.China has the right to take anti-terrorism and de-extremization measures to safeguard national security, Mohammed told Xi, according to CCTV.

Please follow and like us:

May hails Brexit talks ‘progress’ but no breakthrough

BRUSSELS: Prime Minister Theresa May said she had made ‘progress’ in talks with the EU on Wednesday as she sought to extract concessions on the terms of Britain’s divorce, but as expected there was no major breakthrough.
With less than six weeks until Brexit day, May met European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker hoping for movement on the Irish backstop issue after EU leaders insisted they would not restart negotiations.Fears are growing that Britain could yet crash out without a deal, and there was fresh drama just before May headed to Brussels as three of her MPs resigned from her Conservative party in protest over Brexit to join a new independent group of lawmakers.Citing the risk of a hard Brexit, ratings agency Fitch on Wednesday warned it could downgrade Britain, while the pound slipped against the US dollar.A joint statement from May and Juncker called their meeting constructive, striking a slightly more positive tone than when they met a fortnight ago.How Europe reacted to Brexit deal defeatThe two leaders agreed that talks had been constructive, and they urged their respective teams to continue to explore the options in a positive spirit, the statement said,Separately, May said she had stressed the need for legally binding changes to the backstop though the EU has ruled this out.Weve agreed that work to find a solution will continue at pace, time is of the essence and its in both our interests that when the UK leaves the EU it does so in an orderly way.And so weve made progress, May said.May and the other 27 EU leaders approved a Brexit withdrawal agreement at a summit on November 25 last year, but the British leaders own parliament rejected it overwhelmingly on January 15.Since then, May and her ministers have repeatedly met EU leaders and their negotiator Michel Barnier to urge them to reopen the text to find a way to appease eurosceptic MPs.The main stumbling block has been the Irish backstop, which provides for Britain to remain in the EU customs union until a way is found such as a future free trade deal to ensure that Irelands border with Northern Ireland remains open.
Brexiteers in Mays own Conservative party see this as a trap to keep Britain tied to the bloc indefinitely, and have demanded a time limit or exit clause.But such a clause would be seen in Brussels as a betrayal of EU member Ireland and has consistently been given short shrift by EU officials.May and Junckers statement indicated a fresh push to see what guarantees the EU could offer on the backstop to convince sceptical MPs it will not be used to trap Britain.In sadness, EU leaders approve Brexit dealIt also suggested the political declaration outlining plans for future EU-UK ties could be beefed up to increase confidence that both sides will try to reach a future deal as soon as possible, so the backstop never has to be used.May said her Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox would be back in Brussels on Thursday just three days since their last visit as the pace of negotiations picks up.A European source said Cox, whose legal analysis of Mays deal confirmed Brexiteer fears, will have a key role to play.
If Brussels does enough on the backstop to persuade Cox to soften his advice, it could help swing the parliamentary arithmetic behind the prime minister.Without a deal, Britain is due to leave the Union abruptly after four decades on March 29, with no follow-on agreement or transition period to manage trade and economic relations.Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will meet Barnier on Thursday.Officials in both Brussels and London have played down talk that an EU-Arab League summit in Egypt this weekend could become a Brexit in the desert meet, insisting the issue would not hijack the gathering.Both sides have said they want to avoid a no deal Brexit, and many experts foresee economic chaos, even warning of food and medicine shortages or a renewed threat of unrest in Northern Ireland.Manufacturing supply chains could be disrupted, and Brexit uncertainty has already been cited as a contributing factor in the closure or departure of several British-based businesses.One option to avoid no deal would be for Brussels to accord Britain an extension to the March 29 deadline, although May insists she will not request a delay.A delay could keep Britain inside the EU for May 23-26 elections for a new European Parliament, which will start sitting from July 2, presumably without any British members.

Please follow and like us:

Brexit: Theresa May to return to Brussels for further talks

Prime Minister Theresa May will return to Brussels later to continue Brexit talks with the European Union. She is trying to renegotiate the Irish backstop – the insurance policy to prevent the return of customs checks on the Irish border./news/uk-politics-47292833Read more about sharing.
These are external links and will open in a new window Related Topics Brexit Getty Images Mrs May is expected to request legally-binding assurances that the backstop will not extend indefinitely.However, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he does not expect a “breakthrough” in talks.
The backstop policy is part of the withdrawal agreement Mrs May agreed with the EU, and became one of the main reasons her Brexit deal was voted down in Parliament in January.Critics fear it would leave the UK tied to a customs union with the EU indefinitely and see Northern Ireland treated differently.
MPs gave their backing for Mrs May to renegotiate the policy in a vote earlier this month and said she was “working hard to secure the legally binding changes” that Parliament wants.But the EU has consistently refused to make changes.Tories ‘manipulated by Brexit zealots’Sturgeon to urge EU citizens to stay Brexit: A really simple guideChancellor Philip Hammond said on Tuesday evening the government accepted the EU will not agree to replace the backstop arrangements for the Irish border with technological alternatives in time for the scheduled date of Brexit on 29 March.The so-called “Malt house Compromise” – proposed by Remainers and Leavers – included proposals to use technology and checks away from the border to ensure the backstop was never activated.
But Mr Hammond said he hoped the technological solution would form part of negotiations over the following 21 months on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.He added that legally-binding changes to ensure the backstop does not become permanent “would deliver the core of a majority for a deal in the House of Commons”.
Leading Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker insisted they were happy with this arrangement, saying the Malt house proposals were “alive and kicking”.Media playback is unsupported on your device,Media caption Confused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics Jeremy Corbyn also announced he would be going to Brussels to meet the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, on Thursday.
The Labour leader said they would discuss his party’s Brexit proposals – including a permanent customs union and a strong relationship with the single market – and that it was a “necessity” to take no deal off the table.The meeting, on the issue of the Irish backstop, was described as “productive” but Mr Barnier “expressed concerns”.At the time, a European Commission spokesman said: “The EU 27 will not reopen the withdrawal agreement. “We cannot accept a time limit to the backstop or a unilateral exit clause – and further talks will be held this week to see whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the UK parliament and respect the guidelines agreed by the European Council.
“Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a speech in Berlin later, will say all sides in the Brexit process have a “heavy responsibility” to ensure an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal is successfully reached.The PM has promised to return to Parliament to update MPs again on 26 February and, if she had not got a new deal by then, to give them a say on the next steps in non-binding votes.

Please follow and like us: