Following the publication on 28 September 2017 of your article titled “The French affair – the people behind the quest for lucrative EU contract”, I am writing to you to react to the misinformation contained in your story.
Many of your claims are inaccurate and could be considered as an act of libel.
Firstly, you seem to believe that there will be a public tender for a Europe’s track and trace system and that the European Commission (EC) will select one service provider. It is obvious that you have not grasped the intricacies of the EU track and trace system and the division of competences between the EC and the Member States (MS).
The EC’s only responsibility is to set the standards (through implementing regulations and comitology procedure) while each MS is expected to select the providers. So your claim that one could influence the EC to help SICPA “win a lucrative public tender for Europe’s track and trace solutions” is completely false: the EC has not such powers and there is no EU-wide public tender! I do not see how as an MEP I could influence such a process even if I wanted to!
As a lawmaker, vice-chair of the ENVI committee, my only interest is that the EU adopt an efficient EU Track & Trace system totally independent from the tobacco industry to fight illicit trade and protect public health.
As for the conference I hosted on 2 March 2017 (“Towards an EU-wide traceability of tobacco products to fight illicit trade and protect public health”) and that you are using as an example of my proximity with SICPA, the sole objective was to exercise the European Parliament’s scrutiny powers in the context of the implementation of article 15 and 16 of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (EU TPD).
The idea was to have an open and transparent debate to avoid the behind closed doors accusation against the EU when adopting such a major piece of legislation. This is the reason why the press was invited to our discussions and that I initiated another joint meeting of the CONT and ENVI committee on the issue on 12 July 2017 (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2f%2fEP%2f%2fTEXT%2bCOMPARL%2bCONT-OJ-20170712-1%2b02%2bDOC%2bXML%2bV0%2f%2fEN&language=EN)
As you will see in the report of DODS EU for the 2nd March conference (http://ensp.org/2017/03/03/dods-briefing-ensp-towards-an-eu-wide-traceability-of-tobacco-products/), I made it clear that I had no intention to promote one technology or any company over another.
You fail to mention that the event was co-organised with an NGO involved in tobacco control, European Network on Smoking Prevention (ENSP). They had an active part in defining the programme (http://ensp.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/FINAL-AGENDA-Towards-an-EU-wide-traceability-of-tobacco-products.pdf) and Leszek Bartlomiejczyk was suggested by them in his capacity as independent consultant and expert in tracking and tracing systems.
As for the presence of another representative of the track and trace industry (Zbigniew Sagan from Advanced Track and Trace), we wanted to get an insight into the challenges related to track and trace given their experience in various sectors which have already implemented it successfully.
As Chair of the working group against the interference of the tobacco industry, I hosted several meetings with NGOs – e.g. combating tobacco industry tactics with Smoke Free Partnership (2 March 2016), standard packaging with the European Respiratory Society (31 May 2016), tobacco cessation and dependence with Women Against Lung Cancer (31 May 2017) etc. I hosted a single event on track and trace (on 2 March 2017) with ENSP. I will host one in the coming months on the issue of taxation of tobacco products. So your claim that I have “hosted numerous gatherings rolling out the red carpet not just for SICPA chiefs, but for former company and trade associations with close ties to SICPA” is completely false. I consider your statement as slanderous. Apart from the 2nd March meeting where SICPA could have had an interest in participating given the relevance of the topic for their work, can you reference another one?
As for the presence of companies involved in track and trace during this event, I believe they are legitimate stakeholders whose voices deserve to be heard: they help us fight fraud daily. There can be no equivalence with the tobacco industry which silences voices and sales death – and receives no mention in your article!
Many MEPs host events where companies are invited to give testimonies: will you accuse them of collusion? Should we ban all companies from our events? How can the EU legislation be effective and taken seriously if the views of legitimate stakeholders are not heard?
I consider your article as one-sided and politically motivated to discredit me in the fraught process of implementing article 15 and 16 of the EU TPD.
I very much hope to read soon a more professionally researched article from you on the lobbying motives, relentless efforts and immense resources mobilised by the tobacco industry to thwart the EU track and trace system and other major public health measures with the sole objective of protecting their lucrative and deadly business.
This may prove a worthy piece of investigative journalism – unlike your anonymous “article” “The French affair – the people behind the quest for lucrative EU contract”.
With my best regards,
Gilles PARGNEAUX MEP,
Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety