Wednesday 24 October 2012

More Dalli and Snusgate

In a tetchy interview with the Times of Malta, John Dalli lets slip a little more information about this bizarre affair. If I understand him correctly, he is now saying he resigned verbally but not in writing. He confirms that the Tobacco Products Directive was signed, sealed and delivered by March this year (and, therefore, any pretense of consultation since then has been a charade). And he confirms that he wanted to ban smokeless tobacco:

And I can tell you, it was not on the cards. In fact, in the final version, the ban on snus is still there.

In fact, to tell you the truth, we were also suggesting a ban on all smokeless tobacco but that was changed when we negotiated with the other services in the Commission.

So your position was to ban all smokeless tobacco and this was changed after resistance from the European Commission?

That’s right.

Perhaps the most interesting part is at the end of the interview when Dalli says that he has "hundreds of canvassers" like Silvio Zammit, the man who is alleged to have asked Swedish Match for €60 million to repeal the snus ban.

Silvio Zammit is a canvasser like many hundreds of canvassers that I have. That is the relationship with him. And with him I have the contact I have with other canvassers. When they need something and when they have some friend who needs something. It’s the usual political game in Malta.

However, Dalli seems to think that these hundreds of people are well-intentioned volunteers who arrange appointments between interest groups and the EU Health Commissioner out of the goodness of their hearts.

You described a money offer by the snus lobby to Mr Zammit for a meeting as a bribe.

That is what it is.

Wouldn’t these middlemen be demanding money for these services? Would they be doing it voluntarily?

I would not be such an evil mind as to think that for someone to set up a meeting he would take money. All I say is that it usually is a feeling of importance (that these canvassers seek).

So you think that money is not traded in these circumstances.

No. I mean that as far as I am concerned, whenever anybody held any meeting with me, money was never an issue. I don’t know of any instance or any sniff of a possibility that money was an issue.

That these people would make themselves available to these companies for a fee.


Isn’t fostering...

I am not fostering anything. People ask me to meet people as other Commissioners do, and this is, if you ask me, why they were up in arms because everybody does this. Everybody meets people in the Commission and so they should.

Dumb or just playing dumb? You decide.


Jean Granville said...

I suppose this sentence: "It’s the usual political game in Malta." reflects a certain clientelist mindset on the part of Dalli.
Clientelism is certainly deplorable in many ways, but we should not forget that it is historicaly the norm rather than the exception, so at least, we should not be surprised.
That is to say, Dalli may very well be at the same time a corrupt politician ready to take bribes and a sincere ex-smoker Bloomberg-like anti-tobacco fanatic.
In any case, Dalli is out, so we should not care too much about his whereabouts. What happens now seems a more pressing question.
- Is it a sign that they appointed a guy named Borg?
- Is the draft directive that was leaked the kind of document that was going to be produced anyway, Dalli or not Dalli?
- Do Barroso and the other decision-maker want to go on with the same text like nothing happened or are they going to reconsider the matter?
- Is Swedish Match completely transparent or are they playing naive a little bit? I've been wondering if they had some kind of hand in the leaking of the directive and the publication of the tip-exed report previously. I thought somebody could have been flexing muscles and sending a kind of warning.
So maybe the Swedes are not completely done with it. But that's just guessing, of course.

Jonathan Bagley said...

Doe "ban all smokeless tobacco" mean a ban on snus including in Sweden?

Christopher Snowdon said...

Dunno. Probably not. It would be "political suicide" and that's what seems to matter at the EU.

Jean Granville said...

I don't think the directive could abrogate the Swedish 1995 exception, so the ban probably didn't apply to snus, but did apply to all other smokeless tobacco, including in Sweden.
Snus being unbanable in Sweden, they supposedly tried to nearly ban it with the disposition banning flavours from tobacco, but I don't remember whether that disposition was in the leaked draft.

Jean Granville said...

I meant it applied to snus everywhere except Sweden, and to all other smokeless including in Sweden.
Let's just ban everything everywhere, that'll be way more simple.

Tom said...

It's not clientelism - Dalli is a whore - plain and simple favours for money etc...

A provincial chiseler who had a bit of a lottery win being made a commissioner - but patently willing to have his gob worked by the colleagues in Brussels...

He previuosly sock puppeted extensively for Gaddaffi in Malts - go figure.

Nasty git - hope he doesn't get a pension / severance money.

Anonymous said...

Thank you John Dalli for keeping this story in the news!
Two funny stories I read this week:

-Salvio Zammit was selling snus to Swedish expats, under the counter, in his kiosk in Sliema.
-Swedish MEP Christofer Fjellner takes snus back from Sweden and sells it small-scale to his friends in Brussels.

And here something more serious: