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Report: EC plans to investigate national tobacco concessions

Hungary could face an infringement procedure by the European Commission on suspicion of discrimination in the tobacco market, Elżbieta Bieńkowska commissioner responsible for internal markets, told Hungarian online daily today.

“There are tobacco monopolies elsewhere in Europe as well, but nowhere is it so conspicuous that only companies can sell tobacco that are in a good relationship with the government,” the commissioner reportedly said.

According to information obtained by Index, the European Commission began a dialogue with Hungary in March, however, officials in Brussels do not understand the reasons given by the government. “We have to carry out a thorough investigation, as this problem is not even mentioned in the answers we received from Hungary,” the commissioner said. She added that “strictly speaking we cannot talk about corruption practices, but it is visible that contracts and economic advantages that were previously possessed by foreign companies were recently transferred to some other companies.”

The Hungarian government introduced national tobacco shop concessions at the beginning of 2013, with the justification that it was protecting youth from being exposed to tobacco products and as a means to decrease tobacco consumption.