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Tobacco directive passes subsidiarity test


Tobacco directive passes subsidiarity test

By Sophie Petitjean | Tuesday 19 March 2013

The draft directive on tobacco products, which bans menthol cigarettes and regulates the appearance of packs, has passed the subsidiarity test. Only eight national parliaments have sent a reasoned opinion to denounce the non-conformity of the text with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. This is 11 short of the required number to hand the European Commission a yellow card and force it to re-examine its proposal, in line with Protocol 2 annexed to the Lisbon Treaty.

The presidents of Parliament, Council and Commission received seven reasoned opinions before the official deadline of 4 March. These reasoned opinions were drafted by the Swedish parliament, the Czech chamber of MPs, the Italian Senate, the Greek parliament, the Danish parliament, the Romanian chamber and the Portuguese assembly.

The Swedish parliament writes that “The Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) should cover those tobacco products which are traded freely on the common European market. The Riksdag considers that the regulation of snus should be a national matter and that the directive should not cover snus”.

– The chamber of Czech MPs considers that the aims of the directive could be better fulfilled with actions carried out individually at member state level and is opposed to the breadth of competences delegated to the European Commission. Just like the Swedish government, Czech MEPs are against the ban on flavoured tobacco products, against increasing the size of health warnings on smoking tobacco, and against introducing health warnings as pictures.

– The Italian Senate sent a reasoned opinion criticising the choice of the legal basis, alleging that the chosen article (114 on the internal market) aims to bring together member states’ legislation while the draft text allows member states to adopt different regulations, potentially stricter. It went on to voice its opposition to the wide-ranging executive powers granted to the Commission. Lastly, it denounced the violation of the principle of subsidiarity in relation to: new-generation tobacco products and the standardisation and the ban of whole categories of products – such as slim and menthol cigarettes and packets of ten cigarettes. “With this new proposal for a directive, the EU is seeking, for the first time, to take almost total control of the appearance, shape and design of the product and packaging, without there being, inter alia, any valid scientific evidence in support of the effectiveness of these measures in health terms.”

– The Greek parliament believes “the proposal for a directive fails to comply with the principle of subsidiarity, since there is nothing in the explanatory memorandum or the impact assessment report to suggest that the intended objectives can in fact be achieved more effectively at EU level”. MPs specifically complained about the provision banning menthol cigarettes or cigarettes of a diameter smaller than 7.5 mm.

– The Danish and Portuguese parliaments, as well as the Romanian chamber, complained of the non-conformity of the proposal with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

The Chamber of Italian MPs also sent a reasoned opinion but after the deadline, while the Hungarian parliament and the Polish senate expressed their view on the content of the proposal.


On 19 December 2012, the Commission presented a draft directive amending Directive 2001/37/EC concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products. Key measures include: banning slim and/or flavoured cigarettes with a recognisable taste, such as vanilla, chocolate or mint. It also further regulates the appearance of packs, by adding health warnings (images plus text) to 75% of both front and back.

Under Article 6 of Protocol 2 annexed to the Lisbon Treaty, “any national parliament may, within eight weeks from the date of transmission of a draft legislative act […], send the presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission a reasoned opinion stating why it considers that the draft in question does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity”.

Copyright © 2012 Europolitics. Tous droits réservés

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