October 25th, 2012 • SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong wants European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso to give his explanation of the departure from his post of European Commissioner John Dalli. Dalli was the subject of an enquiry from EU fraud watchdog OLAF during which he was accused of having too close links with a Swedish tobacco producer. Today, the director of OLAF appeared before the Parliament to give information on the affair, behind closed doors. 'Following the meeting with OLAF myself and my fellow MEPs still have a number of questions regarding Dalli,’ says De Jong. ‘These questions should be cleared up as quickly as possible and that can only be done by Commission president Barroso.'
The affair surrounding Dalli concerns an offer from a lobbyist known to be a friend of the Commissioner to a manufacturer of the Swedish tobacco product Snus to organise a meeting between the two. Dalli’s responsibilities in the Commission included the new European Tobacco Directive, and the tobacco manufacturer Swedish Match told OLAF of the offer. International treaties regarding tobacco manufacturers and lobbying mean that extremely strict rules insist on openness by policy-makers regarding any contacts they may have with lobbyists. 'There appears to be proof that Dalli knew of the offer by the lobbyist to the tobacco manufacture,’ says De Jong. ‘However, we have not yet received the report from OLAF. Moreover, OLAF is not responsible for the assessment of the incriminating material, which is down to Barroso, so only he can explain has been taken to such a level that he wanted Dalli to resign.'
A row has now broken out between Barroso and Dalli, with the latter asserting that he has been forced to go, while Barroso maintains that he went willingly. In addition, uncertainty surrounds the resignation of the Dutch chair of OLAF’s surveillance council OLAF Christiaan Timmermans, with German newspaper De Frankfurter Allgemeine yesterday reporting his departure, and OLAF failing to confirm it. Christiaan Timmermans is alleged to have told the paper that his resignation was connected to poor procedures within OLAF in connection with the enquiry. ´On this matter too clarification should be given as soon as possible. As a Member of the European Parliament I am supposed to monitor OLAF´s functioning, so I should at least be told whether one of the members of the supervisory body has or has not left as a result of this affair.’