Croatia to Pay a Substantial Fine Due to Delay in Adopting New Tobacco Regulations?

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New regulations were supposed to be implemented by 20 May, but Croatia is certain to miss the deadline.

The government is already late if it wanted to adopt new tobacco regulations in Parliament according to a regular legislative procedure. At issue are amendments to the Law on the Use of Tobacco Products which are needed for Croatia to fulfill obligations under an EU directive. The regulations are supposed to force manufacturers of tobacco products to use packaging with precisely defined textual and pictorial warnings about harmful effects of tobacco products, reports Jutarnji List on May 16, 2015.

“Even if they were to adopt the amendments at the next session of the government, the law cannot be adopted in Parliament and go into effect prior to 20 May. And that means we will pay the penalties. It is impossible to say what the penalty might be, but in general such violations of deadlines are fined with between two and three million euros”, said former Health Minister Siniša Varga. He added that the European Commission usually tolerated some delays, but that in this case that would not happen since this deadline was linked with another deadline of 20 May next year, when the old packaging must be completely withdrawn.

“If the government at the next session were to adopt amendments to the law and send them to Parliament, I would give my best for the amendments to be immediately adopted. I can guarantee that the opposition will make sure there is a quorum for voting. Of course, provided that the law is fully compliant with the European Union”, said Varga.

However, if the law were to be adopted by Parliament, it would still be impossible to meet the deadline of 20 May, since that is when manufacturers of tobacco products should start producing cigarettes in new packaging. That requires adaptation and investments in new technology which entails new costs, so some suspect that the government actually missed the deadline under pressure from the tobacco industry. The packaging will have to include health warnings about the dangers of smoking, and this textual and pictorial warnings will have to cover at least 65 percent of the packaging.

Two months ago, Philip Morris Zagreb pointed out that the measures imposed by the EU would have a big impact on their business and would further tighten an already strict legislative framework regulating tobacco products. They also said that Croatia was on the external border of the EU and that the effects of changes would have to be monitored beyond the EU borders as well.

British American Tobacco (BAT) said that their main concern was the time they would have available to adapt their production process in the plant in Kanfanar, which would require substantial investment.


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