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The Truth and Reconciliation struggle on the Balkans

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We live in a post-genocidal society, divided into ethnic-religious ghetto by means of war. In such broken society are continually inserted seductive and controversial concepts that serve the goals that are not realized by means of war.

The terms such as federalism, unitarism and separatism come mainly as political games of political life actors in our country, but regarding the separatism of the entities RS, the Greater Serbian policy is absolutely focused on this goal. The shaping of political reality and the main ideas in it is a work of the ideology – par excellence, which then means that these terms are mostly ideologically determined and conceived in the minds of their constructors.

We should remember that M. Kasapović (Zagreb) in 2005 imposed and installed the term of consociation as territorial separation of the people in Bosnia and as the only possible model for the organization of the political system in Bosnia, followed by an orchestrated story of federalization and electoral units. The vague concept about the “impossible state” by N. Kecmanović (Banjaluka) is added to this in 2007 and till today, these two, assembled Serbian-Croatian projects of the dissolution of Bosnia stifled us and taken to a blind track of history. Kasapović has already come to Cyprisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These two names, Kasapović and Kecmanović, are witnesses to the great moral problem that has dampened our present social reality! We did not forget that on the ground of Bosnia, “pure ethnic territories” were created. On the objection that separatism must be halted, separatist forces respond that separatism is a reaction to unitarism and the non-recognition of entity “RS” or the necessity of federalization because of the vulnerability of Croats by Bosniaks.

Thus, the syntagm of “unitarist politics” is a good excuse to continue the policy of division, ghettoization, hatred, great Serbian policy and similar enterprises. The Dayton political system with imposed Constitution in Anex IV has brought peace to Bosnia, but, it should be emphasized, left the hope of anti-Bosnian forces to continue what they did not end in the war. This was immediately understood by the Greater Serbian policy and the entity RS was called the “Serbian state”, “war booty” or “the rest of the remnants of the Serbian ethnic territory” west of the Drina River. The name of the entity itself allows this in perspective!

Many people are already “trained” to speak “Serbian entity” regardless of the fact that it was made by genocide against Bosniaks. Unitarianism is falsely identified with majorization in the explanations of separatist policies that, in fact, do not want the state of Bosnia or want only the formally present state institutions that are subordinate to the entity. The unitary system of government means that there is a state power that is accomplished throughout the territory of the state. Relating to this idea, Bosnia is a highly decentralized state divided into entities and cantons, which considerably slows down its functioning. The key matter is that separatism and federalism as parts of the political ideology of anti-Bosnianism do not want strong state of Bosnia. In such divided state, there we cannot talk about unitarism. The expansionist nationalism of Serbs and Croats sees its goal in the assimilation of the Bosnian territory, then the “territorial authority” of ethnics means suppressing everything different from our “territory” and disregarding that in “our territory “state power or some national (state) institution has any influence. From here to dissolution, it is just a step. This is the way that tribal games go to the extreme. Serbian and Croatian national projects are seeking a “Bosniak policy” that would agree to implementation of Bosnian state’s dissolution in this way and end with its political and historical existence. A brave Bosnian policy should offer the concept of regionalization of the state area and constantly insist on it regardless of all Serbian-Croatian agreements against Bosnia. Bosnia has five historical regions that derive their meaningful existence from medieval times and that should not be ridden of the mind. In addition, the Bosnian ethatist political philosophy must be reaffirmed, therefore, a new development of awareness of the importance of the state. By this, it should be ended the Bosniak jeremiad in the last twenty years and defeated the anti-politics.

The ideologized vocabulary of anti-Bosnian politics

We must not agree to accept the ideologized vocabulary of anti-Bosnian politics at all. Unfortunately, we still do not have a sufficiently strong Bosnian policy that could deal with numerous subversives, simulacrums, deceptions and abuses of the system institutions, and we are all troubled by the failure of the rule of law. Parts of the law apply only to powerless or politically unbounded. It seems that the system of law in this country is the main source of corruption and manipulation of citizens, such a monstrous system that we have not even imagined. Organized groups have appropriated “right” of rights institutions and it appears as “party” and “ethnic” property, plus family clans, and the state is catastrophically damaged and turned into a “super-market” for robbery. The law system is subordinate to political groups that implement their constructions of social life. Weak state institutions open the space to all degenerative phenomena that undermine political stability. The state is vulnerable, institutionally deprived and does not breathe full of lungs. It would be good if the unitary system of government worked and organized the political life in the state through the devolution. It would be much more order, responsibility and better life. There would be no anarchy, hunting in the fog, ethnophulism in the education system, anachronistic ideologies, mythical consciousness, Chetniks and Ustasha, denying of genocide, denying the right to Bosnian language for children in schools … In post genocidal society, a strong and responsible state is needed in order to overcome war trauma and reached legal satisfaction. What we have now is a knock-together form of war achievements and fulfilled wishes of the Milosević’s regime.

The bureaucrats from the so-called International community

We should not be naive and believe to bureaucrats from the so-called International community, to people like for example, B. B. Ghali, J. Akashi, J. Mayor, M. Lajčak or C. Bildt and many others, known and unknown. They consider Bosnia as a regular working task and they did not carry out anything to improve life in Bosnia. Let remember José Cutilliero, Lord Carrington, David Owen, Philippe Morillon and dozens of others who have done everything to carry out an anti-Bosnian idea in Bosnia and led us to the madness of the division of the country towards the ethnic-religious lines of war conquest. They were “just mediators” – that sounds innocently. They came here as maharaja with their colonial narrations. Today’s generations must not forget these people and must save a real memory about them. It is important, for example, to leave a recorded memory of F. Mitterrand and similar figures of modern cynicism that convinced us that we could walk across the city under the siege of Serbian howitzers and snipers beside the burnt City Hall or Markale. They turned our disaster into a “humanitarian issue” and shamefully closed their eyes against the genocide against Bosniaks all over the Bosnia. In addition, Bosnia is settled at the heart of the former South Slavic area and it is “ideal” as a focal point in which Western, European, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, civilized mediators “experts” can be involved for the division of territories leaving the peoples in conflicts. When “bureaucrats” stop working this in the Balkans, it is absolutely certain that peace will be here – to avoid saying eternal peace, because we have never started wars. Let’s look back to the 20th century – everything was transparent. Egoistic bureaucrats do not need civil Bosnia or peace among South Slavic “tribes”, because what would they do then and how they deal with their problems.  European bureaucrats have been watching aggression on Bosnia for four years and wrote letters to Milošević. They did not provide protection and defence of an independent state with the UN forces. In today’s constellation, they worry about the Bosnian and South Slavic “primitives” who do not know what “civil society” is and play the role of a civilizing factor.

The political matrix of ethnic-religious representation of people

It would be worth to express a sceptical attitude towards the “civil political option” syntagm, because it does not have clear semantic structure, as well as a “nationalist policy”. Until we begin to name precisely the phenomena around us, we will not know what is happening to us! Since the 1990s in Bosnia the political matrix of ethnic-religious representation of people has been imposed, so that they have not appeared as individuals,  citizens, free citizens, but only and exclusively as members of the team/collective, Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks and Others. In that wretched matrix, people of Bosnia are not autonomous and free individuals. They have to think as the “team/collective says” or the priest on behalf of the team/collective (tribe, people, nation, religion) and in such way their individuality is reduced of them, and then they are only “cannon flesh” of some great “Načertanija” (1844) and pathological conditions of hegemonic politics. Such a collectivist spirit is controlled by religious institutions and ruling political oligarchs. Here, the religion is the basis of the nation – and it tells us where we are!

It is an illusion to present the policy throughout the conceptual pair of “nationalist” and “civil” politics when we know that this is only the seductive surface of the project of tribal division of the people of the South Slavic area and the imposition of a matrix to Bosnia that opposes against its historical political philosophy. Our heroic peoples, who have neglected their production of knowledge and general culture, managed by people with suspicious projects, they will be slaves and serfs in the upcoming establishment of the world order as a system of hegemony of several powers. The pair of terms “civil” and “nationalist” does not correspond to the essential meaning of the historical process in which we are overtaken by a sub-national political culture, a feudalized landscape in which neither citizens nor nationalists “can” appear. We have not yet learned to participate freely in a democratic culture as citizens with their opinions and interests. We still need tribal chiefs and priests who do not know anything about the Bosnian political future! We need to ask questions that help us to focus primarily. For example, first of all – how did it happen that we are the only ones in today’s Europe who has a “tribal political system” or a “state of tribes”, such a constitutional arrangement imposed by Annex IV? Who set us this up as the Constitution of the State? Why all European diplomats are silent on this issue and say that we should “agree” when they, as the International Community, have fulfilled the wishes of the aggressors and nationalist forces in the Balkans and against Bosnia?

This cynical European bureaucracy, above all, regardless of European ideals, is a self-sufficient, static and enlarging political group that accumulates great power in its hands. It pretends as awkward in front of the Balkan fascists, the Nazis, the fundamentalists, because such characters serve it as an example of the “primitive Balkans” and “wild Slavic tribes” who are slaughtered each other without mercy. This colonial background and the orientalistic image about us disable a realistic approach to solving problems in this area. There are also quite low and hypocritical moves of Croatian “European” policy that plays its petty-bourgeois super-ordination to this area and shows itself to others as an “heir of European values” while supporting the Hague convicts with Tompson’s songs and ideology. This Croatian unilateralism has led to the incomparable exodus of Bosnian Croats from their homeland – Bosnia and has torn them away from their Bosnian state. The second guidance that helps us to orient ourselves is focused on understanding the distinction between national and ethnic, civil and ethnicity.

First of all, it should be reminded that in the area of South East Europe, where the South Slavic nations were located, the state structure of these nations failed because they were mostly obsessed with their own mythical, religious and ethnic constructions or fabrications that served them to represent themselves as a nation superior to others. In Bosnia, this has been happening during the whole 20th century in big noises of the Serbian and Croatian national determinations. Thus, the national question was shaped at a very primitive level as a question of creating an ethnic-religious state from which all who are not “ours” by religion and nationality will be excluded. This incompetence for the difference led the national question under the control of religious institutions of Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. In one-track politics, the nuances of the fascist-shape relation to the different are noticed, as R. Konstantinović wrote about it, so knowledgeable and anticipatory, as well as Miodrag Popović. So, it could be said that the South Slavic peoples, as well as the peoples of Bosnia, have not yet developed and tested a political culture that surpasses the “tribal image of the world” and prefers free man as the greatest value of the social life of people.

We need to teach people that nationally are not a tribal, ethnic, folk, regional or ethnic-religious definition of a person, but it is meant that a free citizen belongs to a state-nation that assures him all human rights as to its citizen. Nationality is thus a civil definition, a legal-political concept of people’s life who does not exclude their cultural perceptions of themselves. So, it is time to learn to distinguish the political-legal level of human life in the community from the cultural-historical dimension through which a certain national identity is recognized as specific among others. The Bosnian Serbs were captured in the mythologist of the 19th century about the “great Serbian state” in which all Serbs will live and – only Serbs. In front of them there is a great historical task to overcome their own misconceptions, self-denial and historical blind alley.

A similar process of liberation from the “Ottoman image of the world” has already begun by the Bosniaks and they are carrying it out. In the end, it should be emphasized that in our country the civil has not yet matured in citizenship awareness, but it entails historicist narratives of Tito-statehood, fraternity and unity, communism and a one-party world, the monolithic Left, existence without identity, misunderstanding of anti-Fascism, bipolar diversity of the world, unable to anticipate the new Bosnian idea of life, and so on. In fact, the civil has never come to life in this region as a political culture of respecting a man, an individual, a free citizen of the Bosnian nation. We still do not know what it means to be a citizen, free and conscious again in our own Bosnianhood? We have not considered this in the past thirty years under the siege of collective metaphysics of ethnic-religious groups. In today’s monstrous political systems, this seems to be utopian, unreal and unachievable before the dictatorship of party oligarchies, leaders and their assistants. In that danger is growing the rescue-thing – Heidegger would remind to Hoelderlin.

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Europe

From Davos to Munich

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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

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Election Monitoring in 2018: What Not to Expect

Alina Toporas

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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.

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Can Europe successfully rein in Big Tobacco?

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Photo by Mateo Avila Chinchilla on Unsplash

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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