• By
  • Tom Fairless

Brussels is set for a lull this week as the hub of European Union action shifts overseas. EU lawmakers are making the monthly commute to their other seat in Strasbourg, where they are due to vote on new tobacco legislation and discuss a response to alleged spying by the U.S. government. Meanwhile, several top EU officials have commitments overseas, from Rome to Washington D.C.

On Monday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will meet the prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo in her latest effort to bring the two closer together, while European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso will host Iraq s deputy prime minister.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy will travel to London on Tuesday to meet U.K. premier David Cameron fresh from last week’s Conservative Party conference, where he reiterated his pledge to take powers back from Europe. In Strasbourg, European lawmakers will vote on a law aimed at making tobacco less attractive to young people, for example by banning sweet or fruity flavors. Several lawmakers and national health ministers have complained about unusually aggressive lobbying, and there are fears that divisions within the Parliament could prevent a deal on the new legislation before European elections in May.

On Wednesday, Jos Manuel Barroso will visit the Italian island of Lampedusa to pay his respects to the victims of last week’s shipwreck disaster, and discuss possible European actions to address the plight of refugees. Mr. Van Rompuy will travel to Paris for a working lunch with French president Fran ois Hollande. And European lawmakers will discuss a response to the National Security Agency’s alleged tapping of the SWIFT company’s international bank transfer data. They will also vote on new rules on flight and rest times for pilots and cabin crew.

The EU s digital tsar, Neelie Kroes, will travel to Portugal and Spain mid week, meeting Portugal s vice prime minister on Wednesday and Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, the EU’s top economic policymaker Olli Rehn will visit Washington for the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

And on Friday, Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, has an audience with Pope Francis in Rome.

Eu to ban menthol cigarettes — rt news

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Flavoured cigarettes, including menthol, strawberry, or vanilla, are set to be banned in the European Union. The EU health commissioner also wants to make pictorial warnings occupy 75 per cent of the pack.

The draft legislation on measures to curb smoking were unveiled on Wednesday. However, they still need to be approved by EU governments and the European parliament, which could take up to three years.

The legislation would ban cigarettes with characterizing flavour , such as menthol, strawberry, or vanilla, and will also make pictorial health warnings mandatory and bigger, covering at least 75 per cent of the pack. Finally, the draft also includes plans to ban slim cigarettes and the sale of packs containing less than 20 cigarettes.

“We’re not prohibiting smoking we’re making it less attractive for everyone,” said Tonio Borg of the health commission. “Sometimes you need shocking pictures to shock people into stopping smoking.”

Glenis Wilmott, Labour leader in the European parliament, told the Guardian “Cigarette packets should look like they contain a dangerous drug, rather than perfume or lipstick.

She also proposed additional measures to curb smoking in the EU, “We need to get rid of all branding from cigarette packets, as it is the only space that the tobacco industry has left to market their products.

The initiative follows the resignation of the previous EU health commissioner John Dalli, who was accused of sleaze by Swedish tobacco lobbyists. He allegedly agreed to help lift an EU ban on a Swedish smoke free substance called Snus. Dalli denied any wrongdoing, and went to court over the matter.

Cigarette sales in the European Union have fallen drastically over the last years. However, the proportion of smokers still stands at 33 per cent of the adult population, higher than any other region, according to the World Health Organization.

700,000 people die in the EU every year from smoking related diseases, and the cost to treat them amounts to 25 billion per year, according to the European commission s data.

“Tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death across the UK, Europe and the world. One in two long term smokers is killed by tobacco, and the smoking rate amongst young women is on the rise,” Glenis Wilmott pointed out.