Brussels, July 23rd

Background: On 13 March, Tobacco Europe lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman concerning the evaluation process of the legislative framework for tobacco control, highlighting specific concerns about both: the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP) and Open Evidence, both contractors involved in the framework contract on tobacco control policy.

Following our submission, the Ombudsman initiated an investigation on 25 April, focusing on how the European Commission addressed alleged conflicts of interest within a framework contract on tobacco control policy, specifically on ENSP.

Update: In June, Tobacco Europe received confirmation from the Ombudsman that a meeting with the Commission on this case would be held on 28 June. A draft report will be prepared, and shared with Tobacco Europe for any additional comments. Such report will serve as the basis for the Ombudsman to formulate a position on the matter. Although the timeline remains unclear, we anticipate receiving feedback by end of July.

Concerning our complaint to DG SANTE sent on both 13 March and 8 May on the potential conflict of interest involving Open Evidence, the leading consultant in the consortium contracted by the Commission for services concerning EU actions in tobacco control, including the ongoing revision of the Tobacco control acquis, DG SANTE has failed to reply within the stipulated time frame as outlined under the European Code of Good Administrative Behaviour, which mandates that institutions respond to correspondence from citizens and organizations within a reasonable time frame, typically set at 15 working days. It notably stipulates that a decision on every request or complaint to the institution is taken within a reasonable time-limit, without delay, and in any case no later than two months from the date of receipt.

In parallel, Tobacco Europe observes that a numerous of other conflict of interests have popped up recently, impacting various industries and for which the Commission and the Ombudsman have been taking taking a clear stance, notably in pharma, big techs, as well as another case involving a consultancy specialised in competition law, in which the element of professional conflict of interest was considered.

Tobacco Europe will continue providing regular updates on this matter.

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