EU Observer has published an interview with Luk Joossens of the Association of European Cancer Leagues. Mr Joossens correctly points out the need to step up the fight against illegal trade in tobacco and to implement an effective system to do so. His assertion, however, that it is too late for the European Parliament to veto the bill on a track and trace system is tinged with irony: regardless of whether the Parliament vetoes the bill or not, it is highly unlikely that the track and trace system will be implemented on time for 2019.
The referred Delegated Act on contracts with data storage providers is not the real problem, and it is rather caustic that some MEPs are worried it does not comply with the FCTC Protocol, whilst they failed to point that out for the implementing regulation that the Commission already adopted in December. What really is of concern is that the European Parliament allowed the Commission to adopt behind closed doors an Implementing Regulation that lacks coherence, set standards where no competency exists, establishes trade barriers for European companies, while failing to set standards where these are mandated and badly needed. It will be prohibitively costly and unworkable for mid‐sized and smaller firms, which will have to adapt their production facilities once again, just two years after they invested millions to comply with the labelling requirements of the TPD. Track & Trace obliges all companies in the tobacco sector to reorganise and modify their business and trading practices beyond what is necessary to establish a well-functioning track and trace system and beyond what the MEPs themselves and Member States required in 2014.
As Mr. Joossens says, “we do not know how it will work in practice”: neither the Commission nor the Member States know how the system will actually work. However, all three have continuously stated publicly that the system will work regardless. The real question, therefore, is not whether the MEPs should veto or not this Delegated Act, but what they can do to ensure that the Commission and the Member States do their utmost to facilitate the implementation of Track & Trace.
Peter van der Mark, Secretary General of ESTA said: “The need to implement a system to combat illegal trade is unquestionable. Illegal tobacco trade harms consumers, producers and government revenues. However, this does not make acceptable the introduction of an unnecessarily complex and costly scheme that is completely unworkable for smaller producers. The idea that it can be implemented on time for 2019 is in itself already completely unrealistic.”