Fighting illicit tobacco

23 March 2018, Rue Belliard 99, Brussels, Room JDE 62, 9:45-17:30.

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) together with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) co-organised a stakeholder conference on the illicit tobacco trade on 23 March 2018. The event took place in the EESC in Brussels.

Mr Dassis, EESC President, opened the conference and Commissioner Oettinger gave the key note speech. Mr Gilles Pargneaux MEP, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and Member of the Budgetary Control Committee, presented the European Parliament perspective, followed by a presentation by Ms Demetra Novakova, Chair of the Council Customs Cooperation Working Party.

The morning session focused on the challenges from the illicit tobacco trade. The afternoon session focused on possible ways to address these challenges, against the background of the Commission's Progress Report of 12 May 2017 (COM(2017) 235) on its 2013 strategy to step up the fight against the illicit tobacco trade.

The active debates gave ample opportunity for all stakeholders, including consumer associations, health groups, academia, industry, Member States, neighbouring countries and many others, to put forward their perspectives.

The conference showed that the illicit tobacco trade is a major challenge to society in general, affecting the EU's tax, health and security policies. A holistic approach will be needed to effectively combat the illicit tobacco trade and this will arguably require measures targeting both the supply (e.g. by strengthening international customs cooperation) and demand side (e.g. by raising consumer awareness) of the illicit market. In this respect, the importance of the FCTC Protocol as a new key tool to fight the illicit tobacco trade at the global level was noted.

In addition, reflection is ongoing as to whether new tools are needed to fight the constantly changing illicit tobacco trade. Commissioner Oettinger reiterated that the fight against the illicit tobacco trade remains a priority for the EU. Moreover, he mentioned that the Commission envisages adopting a new action plan to fight the illicit tobacco trade in 2018 and that the conference discussions will feed into the preparation of the Action Plan.