Should it be the EU Commission that decides where we are allowed to smoke?
15 July, 2009
The European Commission on 30 June called on member states to boost their non-smoking legislation in order to move towards a “smoke free” EU by 2012. The Commission is suggesting that smoking in “enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport” be banned by 2012, while children’s exposure to tobacco should be specifically tackled and “efforts to give up tobacco use and pictorial warnings on tobacco packages” should be encouraged.
Now I think the objective here is a good one, and Ireland already is well advanced in the area of anti-smoking legislation. But that’s not the point. The point is that I can’t see why, following the principle of Subsidiarity, the Commission cannot leave it to each member state to decide how far to go in combating smoking under its laws.
EU leaders first enshrined the concept of Subsidiarity in the1992 Maastricht Treaty, and the Commission has steadfastly tried to ignore it ever since, while whittling away at its effectiveness.
Per the Amsterdam Treaty, the following guidelines are supposed to be used in examining whether EU community action is justified, as opposed to national legislation : (a) the issue under consideration has transnational aspects which cannot be satisfactorily regulated by action by Member States; (b) actions by Member States alone or lack of Community action would conflict with the requirements of the Treaty (such as the need to correct distortion of competition or avoid disguised restrictions on trade or strengthen economic and social cohesion) or would otherwise significantly damage Member States’ interests; and (c) action at Community level would produce clear benefits by reason of its scale or effects compared with action at the level of the Member States.
Even allowing for the vagueness of these guidelines, I suggest that whether, in any given country, a person is allowed to smoke (say) on public transport should be decided by the elected representatives in that country’s national parliament, and should not be a matter for decision at EU level.
This drift of legislative and regulatory power is the real reason why so many sensible people (and not just loo-lahs as Bertie Ahern would style them) are uncomfortable with supporting the Lisbon Treaty. Why make it easier for Brussels to introduce more laws and regulations, when we have no effective guidelines limiting the extent and nature of the subject matters that are within the ambit of EU, as opposed to national, legislation?