The EU of social welfare or of generational warfare, the continent of debt-bound economies or of knowledge-based community? Is the predatory generation in power? Why the only organized counter-narrative comes as a lukewarm Mouse Mickey – between Anonymous and Pirate party, from the Wiki-leaky to Snowden-picky.
Europe’s redemption lies in the re-affirmation of the Lisbon Strategy of 2000 (and of Göteborg 2001), a ten-year development plan that focused on innovation, mobility and education, social, economic and environmental renewal. Otherwise a generational warfare will join class and ethnic conflicts as a major dividing line of the EU society in decline.
Back in the good old days of the Lisbon Strategy (when the Union was proclaimed to be the most competitive, knowledge-based economy of the world), the Prodi and Barroso Commissions have been both repeatedly stressing that: “at present, some of our world trading partners compete with primary resources, which we in the EU/Europe do not have. Some compete with cheap labor, which we do not want. Some compete on the back of their environment, which we cannot accept…”
What has happened in the meantime?
The over-financialization and hyper-deregulations of the global(-ized) markets has brought the low-waged Chinese (peasant converted into a) worker into the spotlight of European considerations. Thus, in the last two decades, the EU economic edifice has gradually but steadily departed from its traditional labor-centered base, to the overseas investment-centered construct. This mega event, as we see now with the Euro-zone dithyramb, has multiple consequences on both the inner–European cultural, socio-economic and political balance as well as on China’s (overheated) growth. That sparse, rarefied and compressed labor, which still resides in the aging Union is either bitterly competing with or is heavily leaning on the guest workers who are per definition underrepresented or silenced by the ‘rightist’ movements and otherwise disadvantaged and hindered in their elementary socio-political rights. That’s how the world’s last cosmopolitan – Europe departed from the world of work, and that’s why the Continent today cannot orient itself (both critically needed to identify a challenge, as well as to calibrate and jointly redefine the EU path). To orient, one need to center itself: Without left and right, there is no center, right?!
To orient, one need to center itself, at first
Contemporary Union has helplessly lost its political ‘left’. The grand historical achievement of Europe – after the centuries–long and bloody class struggle – was the final, lasting reconciliatory compromise between capital and labor. (E.g. tightening the ‘financial screws’ while unemployment kept its sharp rise, was a big mantra of the French, British, German and Italian political center-right in late 1920s and early 1930s.) It resulted in a consolidation of economically entrepreneurial and vibrant but at the same time socially just and beneficial state. This colossal civilizational accomplishment is what brought about the international recognition, admiration, model attraction and its competitiveness as well as inner continuity, prosperity and stability to the post WWII Europe.
In the country of origin of the very word dēmokratía, the President of the Socialist International (and the Nation‘s PM) has recently introduced to his own citizenry the most drastic cuts that any European social welfare system had experienced in the last 80 years. The rest of official Europe (and the rest of ‘unofficial us’) still chews the so-called Greek debt tirade as if it is not about the very life of 12 million souls, but a mare technical item studied at secondary schools’ crash-course on macro economy.
The present-day Union, aged but not restaged, is (in) a shadow of the grand taboo that the EU can produce everything but its own life. The Old Continent is demographically sinking, while economically contracting, yet only keeps afloat. Even the EU Commission, back in 2005, fairly diagnosed in its Green Paper Confronting demographic change – a new solidarity between generations that: “…Never in history has there been economic growth without population growth.”
The numbers of unemployed, underemployed or underpaid/working–poor are constantly growing. (Simply, the unemployed is not a free person, but an excluded and insecure, obedient and backward-minded, aggressive and brutal individual.) The average age of the first labor market entry is already over 30 in many MS – not only of Europe’s south. The middle-class is pauperized and a cross-generational social contract is silently abandoned, as one of its main operative instruments – the Lisbon strategy – has been eroded, and finally lost its coherence.
To worsen the hardship, nearly all European states have responded wrongly to the crisis by hammering down their respective education and science/R&D budgets. It is not a policy move, but an anti-visionary panicking that delivers only cuts on the future (generations).
(E.g. the EU investments in renewables have been decreasing ever since 2008. Still, today, the EU budget allocation to agriculture subsides is 10 times bigger than to R&D.) No wonder that our cities at present –instead of blossoming with the new technologies– are full of pauperized urban farmers: a middle class citizenry which desperately turns to mini agriculture as the only way to meet their nutritional needs.
Silenced Youth with Bluetooth
Is the subtle, unnoticed generational warfare, instead of the social welfare already going on?!
Recent generational accounting figures illuminate a highly disturbing future prospect for the EU youth. Decades of here-us-now disheartened consumerism corroded the EU’s community fabrics so much that, cross-generationally speaking, the present is the most socioeconomically egotistic European society of all times.
Elaborating on the known ‘ageing argument’ of Fukuyama, I earlier stated that: “…political, social and economic changes including very important technological breakthroughs, primarily occurred at generational intervals…Presently, with demographically collapsing European societies, of three or more generations active and working at the same time, the young cohort (of go-getters) will never constitute more than a tiny minority. Hence, neither generational change nor technological breakthrough (which usually comes along) in future will ever be that of our past: full and decisive.” (Our Common Futures: EURO-MED Human Capital beyond 2020, Crans Montana Forum, Monaco, 2005). Conclusively, many of the Third World countries are known by having predatory elites in power that continuously hinder the society at large and hijack their progress to its narrow ends. The EU might easily end up with the predatory generation in power.
On the other hand, Europe has never witnessed its own youth so apolitical, apathetic and disengaged in last 250 years – as their larger front of realities has contracted into the sporadic and self-disfranchising protests over the alleged, but isolated cyber freedoms or over decontextualized gay-rights â la Lady Gaga, only.
Interestingly enough, in the times of a tacit generational warfare, any consolidated fight for a social and generational cause is completely absent. The only organized revolt of European youth comes as a lukewarm demand for a few more freedoms to download internet contents (Anonymous, Pirate party, Wiki-leaky, Snowden-picky, etc.) or through colorful sporadic campaigns for de-contextualized gay and other behavioristic rights. Despite their worsened conditions, the young Europeans didn’t come even close to the core of representative democracy – e.g. to request 20% seat- allocation for the below-30 age cohort in the European and national parliaments – as one of the effective means to improve their future prospects.
Demographically, socio-economically and politically marginalized, European youngsters are chronically underrepresented since exceptionally few MPs and MEPs are below age of 30. Or as Fukuyama noted in his recent essay: “Something strange is going on in the world today. The global financial crisis that began in 2008 and the ongoing crisis of the euro are both products of the model of lightly regulated financial capitalism that emerged over the past three decades… most dynamic recent populist movement to date has been the right-wing… where the left is anemic and right-wing populist parties are on the move… This absence of a plausible progressive counter¬narrative is unhealthy, because competition is good for intellectual ¬debate just as it is for economic activity. And serious intellectual debate is urgently needed, since the current form of globalized capitalism is eroding the middle-class social base on which liberal democracy rests. (Fukuyama, F. (2012) ‘The Future of History’ Foreign Affairs Magazine 91(1) 2012).
The troll of control: No prosperity via austerity
What is the additional pervasive effect of (any) crisis on democracy? 9/11 is just one in series of confirmations (e.g. from the ‘Nixon shock’ to the ongoing Greek/Euro debt saga) that any particular crisis may turn beneficial to those seeking the nontransparent power concentration.
Once a real democracy starts compromising its vital contents, it corrodes degenerates and turns formal. Many contemporary examples show us that for a formal democracy, it is not far from ending up as an oppressive autocratic dictatorship with either police or military or both residing outside a strict civil and democratic control. A real democracy will keep its financial establishment (as much as its armed organs, and other alienation-potent segments) under a strict popular democratic scrutiny and civil control through the clearly defined mechanisms of checks and balances. That is the quintessence of democracy.
(E.g. Without any electoral dependence on EU governments or EU voters, thus, with unconstrained authority and means – the ECB quickly produced over € 1,000 billion to refinance the banks. It seems as if the European integration does not rest on social welfare, public services, job creation and labor protection, enveloped in a democratic, transparent atmosphere of full accountability and universal, especially cross-generational, participation.)
“There has been little willingness to strengthen civic watchdogs of international financial institutions, which might provide a more accurate service than the commercially driven credit-rating agencies that performed so disastrously in the financial crisis…” – laments the FRIDE Institute Director, Richard Youngs in his luminary book: Europe’s Decline and Fall. Indeed, is there any rating agency for ethical bankruptcy, for a deep moral crisis affecting all societal segments around us? The ability to comprehend our common destiny, to show our cross-EU empathy and solidarity is also hitting its record low. The southern/peripheral member states are already pejoratively nicknamed as PIGS by the bank analysts and bond traders (an ill-made, but increasingly circulating acronym referring to Portugal, Italy/Ireland, Greece and Spain).
Currently, the end game of the so-called Euro-crises seems to reveal that the financial institutions are neither under democratic control nor within the national sovereignty domain. (E.g. 20 years ago, the value of overall global financial transactions was 12 times the entire world’s gross annual product. By the end of 2011, it was nearly 70 times as big.) How else to explain that the EU –so far– prefers the unselective punitive action of collective punishment on the entire population/s (e.g. of Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, etc.) – meaning: to control, then it is keen on a thorough, energetic investigation of responsible individuals – meaning to: resolve? So far, Iceland remains the only country that indicted and sentenced its Prime Minister in relation to the financial crisis.
From the democratic, transparent, just, visionary and all-participatory, a holiday from history- model of the European Community, the EU should not downgrade itself to a lame copy of the Federation of Theocracies – the late Ottoman Empire.
This authoritarian monarchy is remembered as a highly oppressive and undemocratic although to a degree liberal and minority-right tolerant feudal state. The Ottoman Federation of Theocracies was of a simple functioning system: with the Sultan’s handpicked Grand Porta (verticalized/homogeneous monetary space of the EMU and ECB, moderately restrained by the Council of the EU) that was unquestionably serviced by the religious communities from all over the waste Oriental Empire (horizontalized/heterogeneous fiscal space of the EMU, in which every state freely exercises its sovereignty in collecting taxes and spending), unless otherwise prescribed off-hand by the Sultan and his Porta (ECB and IMF).
Ergo, negotiating on the coined “Euro-zone debt crisis” (debt bound economies) without restaging the forgotten Lisbon strategy (knowledge-based Community), while keeping a heavy tax on labor but constantly pardoning financial capital, is simply a lame talk about form without any substance. Simply, it is a grand bargain of a tight circle behind the closed doors about control via austerity, not a cross-generationally wide-open debate about vision of prosperity.
Tomorrow never (D)Lies
Despite a constant media bombardment with cataclysmic headlines, the issue is not what will happen with the EURO or any other socio-economic and political instrument. The right question is what will happen with us – as means are always changeable and many, but the aim remains only one: the self-realization of society at large.
Indeed, the difference between a dialectic and cyclical history is a distance between success and fall: the later Lisbon (Treaty) should not replace but complement the previous Lisbon (Strategy). It is both a predictive and prescriptive wording: either a status quo of egoism, consumerism and escapism or a concept of social dynamism resting on a broad all-participatory base. To meet the need is/was always at our reach, but to feed the greed no wealth will ever be enough. Restaging the Lisbon Strategy and reintroducing all of its contents is not just Europe’s only strategic opportunity, but its grand generational/historic responsibility as well. Or as Monnet once explained this logic of necessity: “Crises are the great unifier!”
This article is an extended version of the key-note address ‘From Lisbon to Barcelona – all the forgotten EU instruments’ presented at the Crans Montana Forum, 2013, Geneva, Switzerland
- Lisbon European Council (2000), Employment, Economic Reforms and Social Cohesion: Towards a Europe based on Innovation and Knowledge, Brussels COM 5256/00 + ADD1 COR 1 (en)
- Bajrektarevic, A. (2004), Europe beyond 2020: Three-dimensional Challenge, 13th OSCE Economic Forum, Trieste Italy, November 2004
- European Commission (2005), Confronting demographic change – a new solidarity between generations, Brussels COM 2005 94f of 16 MAR 2005 (page:5)
- Bajrektarevic, A. (2012), No Breakthrough at the Rio+20 Summit – Geopolitics of Quantum Buddhism, GHIR 4 (2) 2012, Addleton Publishers
- Fukuyama, F. (2002), Our Posthuman Future, Profile Books
- Bajrektarevic, A. (2005), Our Common Futures: EURO-MED Human Capital beyond 2020, Crans Montana Forum, Monaco, Dec 2005
- Fukuyama, F. (2012) ‘The Future of History’ Foreign Affairs Magazine 91(1) 2012
- Youngs, R. (2011), Europe’s Decline and Fall – The struggle against global irrelevance, Profile Books
- Ferguson, N. (2005), Colossus – The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, Penguin Books (page 221)
- Bajrektarevic, A. (2005), Green/Policy Paper Submitted to the closing plenary of the Ministerial (and the statement of the Slovenian Chairmanship summarizing the recommendations and conclusions of the OSCE Ministerial Summit Prague 2005), OSCE Documents/EEA 2005/05/14857/En
The EU of social welfare or of generational warfare, the continent of debt-bound economies or of knowledge-based community? Is the predatory generation in power?
Europe’s redemption lies in the re-affirmation of the Lisbon Strategy of 2000, a ten-year development plan that focused on innovation, mobility and education, social, economic and environmental renewal. Otherwise a generational warfare will join class and ethnic conflicts as a major dividing line of the EU society in decline.
From Davos to Munich
An overview of the views and attitudes of European officials during the Davos and Munich Conference and their comparison with each other suggests that the security, economic, and political concerns of European countries have not only not diminished but are increasing.
During the World Economic Summit in Davos, the Chancellor of Germany and the President of France both gave a significant warning about the return of nationalism and populism to Europe. This warning has been sent in a time when Far-Right movements in Europe have been able to gain unbelievable power and even seek to conquer a majority of parliaments and form governments.
In her speech, Angela Merkel emphasized that the twentieth century’s mistake shouldn’t be repeated. By this, the German Chancellor meant the tendency of European countries to nationalism. Although the German Chancellor warning was serious and necessary, the warning seems to be a little late. Perhaps it would have been better if the warning was forwarded after the European Parliamentary elections in 2014, and subsequently, more practical and deterrent measures were designed. However, Merkel and other European leaders ignored the representation of over a hundred right-wing extremist in the European Parliament in 2014 and merely saw it as a kind of social excitement.
This social excitement has now become a “political demand” in the West. The dissatisfaction of European citizens with their governments has caused them to explicitly demand the return to the twentieth century and the time before the formation of the United Europe. The recent victories of right wing extremists in Austria, Germany and…, isn’t merely the result of the nationalist movement success in introducing its principles and manifestos. But it is also a result of the failure of the “European moderation” policy to resolve social, security and economic problems in the Eurozone and the European Union. In such a situation, European citizens find that the solutions offered by the moderate left parties didn’t work in removing the existing crises in Europe. Obviously, in this situation “crossing the traditional parties” would become a general demand in the West. Under such circumstances, Merkel’s and other European leaders’ warnings about the return to the twentieth century and the time before the formation of the United Europe simply means the inability of the Eurozone authorities in preventing the Right-extremism in the West.
These concerns remain at the Munich Security Conference. As Reuters reported, The defense ministers of Germany and France pledged to redouble their military and foreign policy cooperation efforts on Friday, inviting other European countries to participate if they felt ready to do so.
In a speech to the Munich Security Conference, German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said Europe’s countries would not be able to respond nimbly enough to global challenges if they were stymied by the need to decide joint foreign policy approaches unanimously.
“Europe has to up its pace in the face of global challenges from terrorism, poverty and climate change,” she said. “Those who want to must be able to advance without being blocked by individual countries.”
Her French counterpart Florence Parly said any such deepened cooperation would be complementary to the NATO alliance, which itself was based on the principle that members contributed differently depending on their capacities.
“The reality has always been that some countries are by choice more integrated and more able to act than others,” she said.
The push comes as Germany’s political class reluctantly concedes it must play a larger security role to match its economic pre-eminence in Europe, amid concerns that the European Union is unable to respond effectively to security concerns beyond its eastern and southern borders.
But in their deal for another four years of a “grand coalition” government, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats have agreed to boost spending on the armed forces after years of post-Cold War decline.
The deal, which must still be ratified by the Social Democrat membership, comes as Germany reluctantly takes on the role of the continent’s pre-eminent political power-broker, a role generations of post-war politicians have shied away from.
Days after U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis reiterated President Donald Trump’s demand that European countries spend more on their militaries, Von der Leyen pledged to spend more on its military and the United Nations, but called in return for other countries not to turn away from mulitlateralism.
The pledges come as the EU seeks a new basis on which to cooperate with Britain, traditionally one of the continent’s leading security players, after its vote to leave the EU.
Earlier on Friday, the leaders of the three countries’ security services said close security cooperation in areas like terrorism, illegal migration, proliferation and cyber attacks, must continue after Britain’s departure.
“Cooperation between European intelligence agencies combined with the values of liberal democracy is indispensable, especially against a background of diverse foreign and security challenges,” they said.
First published in our partner Tehran Times
Election Monitoring in 2018: What Not to Expect
This year’s election calendar released by OSCE showcases a broad display of future presidential, parliamentary and general elections with hefty political subjecthoods which have the potential of transforming in their entirety particularly the European Union, the African Union and the Latin American sub-continent. A wide sample of these countries welcoming elections are currently facing a breadth of challenges in terms of the level of transparency in their election processes. To this end, election observation campaigns conducted by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Council of Europe, the Organisation for American States (OAS), the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division, the National Democratic Institute, Carter Center and even youth organisations such as AEGEE and Silba are of paramount importance in safeguarding the incorruptibility of election proceedings in fraudulent and what cannot be seen with the naked eye type of fraudulent political systems, making sure elections unfold abiding national legislation and international standards.
What exactly does an election observation mission supposed to accomplish?
An election monitoring mission consists of operational experts and analysts who are all part of a core team and are conducting their assignments for a period of time varying between 8 and 12 weeks. Aside from the core team experts and analysts, there can be short-term or long-term observers and seconded observers or funded observers. Joining them, there is usually a massive local support staff acting as interpreters and intermediaries. Generally, an election observer does not interfere with the process, but merely takes informative notes. With this in mind, it is imperative of the observer to make sure there isn’t any meddling with votes at polling stations by parties and individual candidates; that the people facilitating the election process are picked according to fair and rigorous benchmarks; that these same people can be held accountable for the final results and that, at the end of the day, the election system put in place by the national and local authorities is solid from both a physical and logical standpoint. Oftentimes, particularly in emerging democracies, the election monitoring process goes beyond the actual process of voting by extending to campaign monitoring.
In practical terms, the average election observer needs to abide by certain guidelines for a smooth and standardised monitoring process. Of course, these rules can vary slightly, depending on the sending institution. Typically, once the election observer has landed in the country awaiting elections, their first two days are normally filled with seminars on the electoral system of the country and on the electoral law. Meetings with candidates from the opposition are sometimes organised by the electoral commission. Talking to ordinary voters from builders to cleaners, from artists to businesspeople is another way through which an election observer can get a sense of what social classes pledged their allegiances to what candidates. After two days in training and the one day testing political preferences on the ground, election day begins. Since the early bird gets the worm, polling stations open at least two hours earlier than the work day starts, at around 7am. Throughout the day, observers ask voters whether they feel they need to complain about anything and whether they were asked to identify themselves when voting. Other details such as the polling stations opening on time are very much within the scope of investigation for election monitors. Observers visit both urban voting centres and rural ones. In the afternoon, counting begins with observers carefully watching the volunteers from at least 3 metres away. At the end of the day, observers go back to their hotels and begin filling in their initial questionnaires with their immediate reactions on the whole voting process. In a few weeks time, a detailed report would be issued in cooperation with all the other election observers deployed in various regions of the country and under the supervision of the mission coordinators.
Why are these upcoming elections particularly challenging to monitor?
Talks of potential Russian interference into the U.S. elections have led to full-on FBI investigations. Moreover, the idea of Russian interference in the Brexit vote is slowly creeping into the British political discourse. Therefore, it does not take a quantum physicist to see a pattern here. Hacking the voting mechanism is yet another not-so-classic conundrum election observers are facing. We’re in the midst of election hacking at the cognitive level in the form of influence operations, doxing and propaganda. But, even more disturbingly, we’re helpless witnesses to interference at the technical level as well. Removing opposition’s website from the Internet through DDOS attacks to downright political web-hacking in Ukraine’s Central Election Commission to show as winner a far-right candidate are only some of the ways which present an unprecedented political savviness and sophistication directed at the tampering of the election machinery. Even in a country such as the U.S. (or Sweden – their elections being held September of this year) where there is a great deal of control over the physical vote, there is not much election monitoring can do to enhance the transparency of it all when interference occurs by way of the cyber domain affecting palpable election-related infrastructure.
Sketching ideational terrains seems like a fruitful exercise in imagining worst-case scenarios which call for the design of a comprehensive pre-emptive approach for election fraud. But how do you prevent election fraud? Sometimes, the election observer needs to come to terms with the fact that they are merely a reporter, a pawn which notwithstanding the action of finding oneself in the middle of it all, can generally use only its hindsight perspective. Sometimes, that perspective is good enough when employed to draft comprehensive electoral reports, making a difference between the blurry lines of legitimate and illegitimate political and electoral systems.
Can Europe successfully rein in Big Tobacco?
In what looks set to become the ‘dieselgate’ of the tobacco industry, a French anti-smoking organization has filed a lawsuit against four major tobacco brands for knowingly selling cigarettes with tar and nicotine levels that were between 2 and 10 times higher than what was indicated on the packs. Because the firms had manipulated the testing process, smokers who thought they were smoking a pack a day were in fact lighting up the equivalent of up to 10, significantly raising their risk for lung cancer and other diseases.
According to the National Committee Against Smoking (CNCT), cigarettes sold by the four companies have small holes in the filter that ventilate smoke inhaled under test conditions. But when smoked by a person, the holes compress due to pressure from the lips and fingers, causing the smoker to inhale higher levels of tar and nicotine. According to the lawsuit, the irregularity “tricks smokers because they are unaware of the degree of risk they are taking.”
It was only the most recent example of what appears to be a deeply entrenched propensity for malfeasance in the tobacco industry. And unfortunately, regulatory authorities across Europe still appear unprepared to just say no to big tobacco.
Earlier this month, for instance, Public Health England published a report which shines a positive light on “tobacco heating products” and indicates that electronic cigarettes pose minimal health risks. Unsurprisingly, the UK report has been welcomed by big tobacco, with British American Tobacco praising the clear-sightedness of Public Health England.
Meanwhile, on an EU-wide level, lawmakers are cooperating too closely for comfort with tobacco industry executives in their efforts to craft new cigarette tracking rules for the bloc.
The new rules are part of a campaign to clamp down on tobacco smuggling, a problem that is particularly insidious in Europe and is often attributed to the tobacco industry’s own efforts to stiff the taxman. According to the WHO, the illicit cigarette market makes up between 6-10% of the total market, and Europe ranks first worldwide in terms of the number of seized cigarettes. According to studies, tobacco smuggling is also estimated to cost national and EU budgets more than €10 billion each year in lost public revenue and is a significant source of cash for organized crime. Not surprisingly, cheap availability of illegally traded cigarettes is also a major cause of persistently high smoking rates in the bloc.
To help curtail cigarette smuggling and set best practices in the fight against the tobacco epidemic, the WHO established the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005. The first protocol to the FCTC, the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, was adopted in 2012 and later ratified by the EU. Among other criteria, the Protocol requires all cigarette packs to be marked with unique identifiers to ensure they can be tracked and traced, thereby making smuggling more difficult.
Unsurprisingly, the tobacco industry has come up with its own candidates to meet track and trace requirements, notably Codentify, a system developed by PMI. From 2005 through 2016, PMI used Codentify as part of an anti-smuggling agreement with the EU. But the agreement was subject to withering criticism from the WHO and other stakeholders for going against the Protocol, which requires the EU and other parties to exclude the tobacco industry from participating in anti-smuggling efforts.
The EU-PMI agreement expired in 2016 and any hopes of reviving it collapsed after the European Parliament, at loggerheads with the Commission, overwhelmingly voted against a new deal and decided to ratify the WHO’s Protocol instead. Codentify has since been sold to the French firm Impala and was rebranded as Inexto – which critics say is nothing but a front company for PMI since its leadership is made out of former PMI executives. Nonetheless, due to lack of stringency in the EU’s draft track and trace proposal, there is still a chance that Inexto may play a role in any new track and trace system, sidelining efforts to set up a system that is completely independent of the tobacco industry.
This could end up by seriously derailing the EU’s efforts to curb tobacco smuggling, given the industry’s history of active involvement in covertly propping up the black market for cigarettes. In 2004, PMI paid $1.25 billion to the EU to settle claims that it was complicit in tobacco smuggling. As part of the settlement, PMI agreed to issue an annual report about tobacco smuggling in the EU, a report that independent researchers found “served the interests of PMI over those of the EU and its member states.”
Given the industry’s sordid history of efforts to prop up the illicit tobacco trade, it’s little surprise that critics are still dissatisfied with the current version of the EU’s track and trace proposal.
Now, the CNCT’s lawsuit against four major tobacco firms gives all the more reason to take a harder line against the industry. After all, if big tobacco can’t even be honest with authorities about the real levels of chemicals in their own products, what makes lawmakers think that they can play a viable role in any effort to quell the illegal cigarette trade – one that directly benefits the industry?
Later this month, the European Parliament will have a new chance to show they’re ready to get tough on tobacco, when they vote on the pending proposal for an EU-wide track and trace system. French MEP Younous Omarjee has already filed a motion against the system due to its incompatibility with the letter of the WHO. Perhaps a ‘dieselgate’ for the tobacco industry might be just the catalyst they need to finally say no to PMI and its co-conspirators.
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