Row at WHO tobacco convention as ‘petulant’ European Union denies it is dragged down by Germany

Saturday 24 November 2001 – Immediate release


Geneva – A new row has broken today out in the tobacco policy negotiations in Geneva over the role of the EU and Germany in promoting the interests of the tobacco industry.  Once again the European Union is acting as a mechanism to reduce 15 countries to the level of the member state most opposed to meaningful response to the 4 million annual deaths caused by tobacco.  Once again, Germany is holding back the progressive member states by insisting on weakening or deleting meaningful provisions widely supported by developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.


This destructive role of the EU is an uncomfortable truth for negotiators from the European Commission. Stung by criticism, the Commission has made a petulant response to a newspaper report (Financial Times, 23 Nov) indicating that Germany is promoting tobacco industry positions and forcing the rest of the EU to go along with it.  Despite official denials that the EU was holding up the negotiation ASH maintained the EU was effectively acting as a front for Germany, and Germany as a front for the tobacco industry.  With the consistent pressure from Germany…


  • The EU will not support a global ban on duty free sales of tobacco – even though it is banned within the EU
  • The EU will not allow its members to speak in favour of banning tobacco advertising, even though 12 of 15 member states voted for exactly that in 1998.
  • The EU will not seek meaningful measures on passive smoking, even though EU directives require worker protection and measures to eliminate passive smoking in places used by kids command widespread support.


Clive Bates, Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)based in London, said:

In these negotiations, the European Union moves at the speed of the slowest and most negative member state.  And in this case, that is Germany.

 Many of the developing countries here in Geneva are looking to Europe for leadership in the fight against tobacco, but all they see is the domination of Germany, with the EU effectively acting as a mouthpiece for increasingly pro-tobacco positions. 

 If 60 developing countries want a ban on tobacco advertising in the convention, how does the European Union end up in the humiliating position of opposing them, just because Germany has dug its heels in?  If they were negotiating in good faith, they could find a way to give Germany what it needs without sabotaging the treaty for developing countries, but they’re not even trying,just hiding behind the bureaucratic difficulties.

 It makes you ashamed to be a European at this meeting.  They come to Geneva and display the worst of Europe when there is such a good story to tell from all the progressive European countries.  The disease of tobacco industry money and influence is infecting the health politics of the European Union and Germany is the prime carrier.