This is a violation of the custom and democratic practice

Earlier today we were sent the following letter from Martin Callanan MEP.  We did not publish it straight away as we wanted to make sure we fully understood what it meant.
We now know that the amendments described in the letter are positive in the sense that they will now allow flavour descriptions.  However, we had been told by MEPs from all parties and from the parliamentary authorities that no substantive amendments could be made to the text of the TPD agreed in trilogue.  As Martin Callanan rightly points out, these are substantive changes.  These changes were rushed through without proper debate and without a vote by all MEPs.  More fundamentally, if these substantive changes could be made, why not others?
No matter what the outcome of next week’s vote on the TPD is, no one can be happy with how this whole file has been handled.  We have seen Commissioners resigning, due process being circumvented, a lack of consultation, expert opinion being either ignored or misrepresented, and dates and timings of key votes being moved to suit political agendas to name but a few.  This really is not a good advertisement for the drafting of important regulations.

Mr Martin SCHULz


European Parliament

20th February 2014


Subject: Revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive agreement during joint finalisation by Parliament and Council services


Dear President,

Further to the discussion at Conference of Presidents this morning, I am writing to highlight my concern over the recent inclusion of several adaptations, by Parliament and Council services, to the trilogue agreement on the recast of the Tobacco Products Directive.

These adaptations are not technical and legal-linguistic corrections, but substantive changes to key articles (including Article 5a on the priority list of additives and enhanced reporting obligations, and Article 18a on electronic cigarettes) of the basic act and an annex, they are as follows:

Articles 5 and 5a

Some paragraphs of Article 5 have been moved into a new article – Article 5a on the priority list of additives. This is intended to simplify and clarify the structure of the act. The remaining text in Article 5 has been restructured in a way more appropriate to a legislative text (by grouping of like obligations).

Article 18a

Article 18a(4)(b)(ii). The text now reads as follows:

“without prejudice to point (i) of this point, do not include elements or features referred to in Article 12, with the exception of Article 12(1)(a) and (c) concerning information on the nicotine content and on flavourings; and”

(a) The insertion of the words “without prejudice to point (i)…” is a legal-linguistic clarification for the avoidance of doubt, making explicit that the requirement to include a list of ingredients set out in Article 18a(4)(b)(i) is not affected by point (ii).

(b) The insertion of the words “…and (c)…” and “…and on flavourings;” corrects, at the request of the political level, an oversight in the text of the political agreement, aligning it clearly to the spirit and intention of the agreement, as, for example, set out in Recital 32(l) from which it is apparent that the directive does not contain a prohibition on flavourings in e-cigarettes.

Annex II

During the course of finalisation it became apparent that the Commission would not be able to provide a picture library before adoption of the directive, as initially

indicated in square brackets in Annex II of the agreed text. The picture library in Annex II is thus empty and will be established by the Commission by means of a delegated act pursuant to Article 9(3)(b) as provided for in the text of the political agreement.

I understand that these substantial changes to the agreed (and voted) text were displayed on the committee website at 9.00am on Thursday 20th February. Changes were then endorsed by co-ordinators shortly afterwards and notified to the committee at 10.00am on the same morning.

The fact that it was considered necessary to ask the committee to endorse these changes clearly indicates that they were considered as substantive.  As such they should surely have been circulated to Members and a vote should have been taken.

In my view, this is a violation of the custom and democratic practice we expect of this Parliament and it sets an extremely dangerous precedent, especially in view of the deep unease in the House over first reading agreements.

I would therefore ask you to consider postponing the vote on the Tobacco Products Directive until such time as the appropriate democratic requirements have been fulfilled.

Kind regards,

Martin Callanan MEP



2 thoughts on “This is a violation of the custom and democratic practice

  1. Pingback: MEPs – do you really want to vote for this? « The counterfactual

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