Eubam alert leads for major cigarettes seizure — eu border assistance mission to moldova and ukraine

On April 30, after EUBAM issued an alert, Romanian Police did a major seizure of cigarettes in Moldova Romania border. Based on information from Moldovan Customs, EUBAM tracked the suspicious shipment of 12,400,000 pieces of illegal cigarettes and alerted the UK Her Majesty Revenue and Customs, the European Anti Fraud Office and Europol.

The tobacco products were meant for Greece. If it had reached the target destination, EU budget would have lost an estimated of 400.000 EUR in unpaid customs duties and taxes. European Anti Fraud Office identified that European Union and its Member States lose more than EUR 10 billion per year because of the illicit trade in cigarettes.

The problem with illegal cigarettes trade nowadays is not only the smuggling of brand named cigarettes, but also the smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes, which becomes more and more profitable business these days. The so called illicit whites are the cigarettes legally produced in one country but then smuggled abroad without customs duties, VAT and excise duties being paid, thus, causing huge loses to the state budgets. They are produced exclusively for export and are not available in the legal market. For instance, ‘Jin Ling cigarettes, contained in the seized consignment, are among other countries also manufactured in Moldova. But according to the available data, until now there have been no seizures of Jin Ling by the Moldovan Customs on the territory of Moldova.

Cigarette smuggling is presently assessed as one of the most serious risks to border security and combating this phenomenon is a priority for border management services in Moldova and Ukraine. EUBAM leads a Task Force Tobacco which provides for monitoring of transits and exports, sharing analytical and operational information between partner services, coordination of risk management, joint investigations and a range of other enforcement activities such as joint border operations and targeting suspicious shipments.

This was one of the major recent seizures of illegal cigarettes, which followed previous two earlier in April and March this year. All these seizures were the outcomes of the Task Force Tobacco, which was established in 2010 and since then coordinated the joint efforts of Ukrainian and Moldovan customs agencies in combating the smuggling of tobacco products from Moldova and Ukraine to the European Union.

Read more about fight against cigarette smuggling here.

Bbc democracy live — meps reject tough regulation of e-cigarettes

MEPs have backed new proposals on regulating the sale and marketing of tobacco products but have remained deeply divided on the details.

On 8 October 2013, MEPs debated revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive, designed to bring in larger health warnings on cigarette packages.

The Commission has proposed that 75% of the front and rear of packages be covered with a warning about the dangers of smoking.

However the centre right EPP group tabled an amendment to reduce this to 50% in the end the parliament backed a compromise agreement of 65%.

MEPs rejected a ban on «slim» cigarettes, but voted to ban menthol flavourings, after a transitional period of 8 years.

Opening the debate, the parliament’s negotiator on the directive, British Labour MEP Linda McAvan said the World Health Organisation was reporting a «worrying» increase in the number of young smokers, and she attacked tobacco producers for making some packets look «gimmicky».

Speaking on behalf of the Council of Ministers, Lithuania’s Health Minister Vytenis Andriukaitis said he «still could not forget the pain and suffering» of both of his brothers dying from smoking related illnesses.

He said that around 700,000 people died every year from smoking, costing the EU more than 500bn every year.

Adopting the revisions to the directive was, he said, a «collective responsibility» of the European Parliament.

‘Insidious’ lobbying

The debate on the directive was postponed from last month, in a move that some MEPs say showed that the parliament was bowing to pressure from the tobacco lobby.

Italian socialist MEP Mario Pirillo accused the tobacco industry of engaging in «the most insidious and deceitful lobbying campaign».

However Polish conservative MEP Janusz Wojciechowski urged fellow MEPs «not to assume that those of us opposed to elements of this directive are doing the bidding of lobbyists.»

He said there was no evidence that banning slim or menthol cigarettes would deter people from smoking, whilst his Polish colleague Marek Migalski warned of the impact on the directive on the economic livelihood of Europe’s tobacco farmers.

E cigarettes

A key element of the directive was new laws on controlling electronic cigarettes (e cigarettes), which are not currently subject to any EU wide regulation.

The Commission supported by centre left and left wing groups of the parliament wanted to treat e cigarettes as medicinal products, meaning they could only be sold by registered pharmacists.

However MEPs backed an amendment from the liberal, centre right and conservative groups that said they should be subject to the same regulation as «normal» cigarettes, meaning they would be more widely available, but unable to be sold people under 18.

British Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies claimed e cigarettes were a «game changer» in helping people quit tobacco cigarettes.

But German socialist MEP Dagmar Roth Behrendt warned that their ease of availability could lure young people to taking up smoking.

A lengthy and complex series of votes took place at the daily voting session later in the day.

MEPs voted to postpone their final vote on the directive, to give the rapporteur more time to negotiate with national governments to reach a common position.

Useful links

The European Parliament’s disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations can be found here.

Read Democracy Live’s guide to how the plenary sessions work here.