The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

NGOs unimpressed by EU footwork

European tobacco control non-government organisations (NGOs) have responded critically to a European Union (EU) report about its role in negotiations on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

The NGO report, Out of Step, says that the EU must take some responsibility for the global tobacco epidemic because much of ‘Big Tobacco’ exports its products from the region.

The report also accuses the EU of not adequately protecting its citizens from tobacco.

“Many EU countries are now falling behind best practice in FCTC implementation,” adds the report, citing weak labelling policies and backward steps on smoke-free laws in some countries.

The NGOs concede the EU has played a “very important role” in the FCTC process, including by providing the greatest share of funding, but argue that it must change its attitude and approach toward other regions and FCTC parties.

According to the original report, Dancing the Tango: the experience and roles of the European Union in relation to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, “the European Commission was seen as bringing vital practical diplomatic and coordinating experience to the negotiation table .... Further, in the FCTC working groups, whenever the EU has strong legal competence in the issue at stake, it is directly involved; at times even serving as one of the key facilitators”.

However, Dancing the Tango also noted difficulties, for example: “Because so much coordination is done internally, when the EU meets with external parties, the EU proves to be very difficult to negotiate with”.

Among other things, the NGOs recommend that the EU:

•    Aim to fulfil its obligations under the Convention to identify further resources to support FCTC implementation and not tie these solely to its own areas of interest;
•    Explain its decision making processes (which are viewed by some as inflexible) to the other Parties and NGOs;
•    At FCTC meetings.... engage with and listen to the rest of the world, not simply focus on EU concerns. Representatives should use language and a tone that is respectful of others’ positions.

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