Japan Tobacco International said today that it welcomed a proposal by some members of the European Parliament for a special inquiry into tobacco lobbying at the European Commission.
“Open and transparent lobbying activities to inform elected officials and civil servants over policy decision-making clearly serve the public interest,” said Thierry Lebeaux, head of EU affairs at JTI.
In a note posted on its website, the company said it hoped that such an inquiry ‘would be given all ways and means to carry out a full investigation into lobbying practices and solidly question all lobby groups, whether from commercial or not-for-profit organizations’.
In 1996, JTI said, the European Parliament was the first to introduce regulation of lobbyists leading to the adoption of a code of conduct.
“Despite strengthening it over time with various measures, some elected officials are now under the impression that the process is being abused,” said Lebeaux. “We would welcome the opportunity to participate and demonstrate our perfect compliance with the European Transparency Initiative and the European Parliament’s Code of Conduct for lobbyists”, he added.
The European Commission and Parliament had recognized that all interested parties had the right to argue their case and present their point of view to EU institutions, all in the public interest, according to the JTI note. ‘Preventing any party from doing so abuses the rules. Using the non-binding and wildly misapplied guidelines on Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control as means of excluding and censoring tobacco companies is intellectually dishonest. As the Commission rightly underlined earlier this month, “Those Guidelines contain no specific compulsory requirements on holding meetings or on the publicity of such meetings”.
‘JTI is one of several interested groups – with relevant expertise – seeking to inform government bodies about the revision of the Tobacco Product Directive.
‘Elected representatives and officials should have unfettered access to the facts, information and opinions that all of these groups can provide, even if only to reject them.’
“Only through clarity and openness can the EU achieve sound public policies and appropriate regulation for any industry,” said Lebeaux.