VNO-NCW is the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers, which represents Dutch business interests. Apart from head office in The Hague, VNO-NCW also has an office in Brussels. VNO-NCW is a member of BusinessEurope, a Brussels lobby group which has lobbied against EU public health legislation for many years.
Lobbying on the Tobacco Products Directive
VNO-NCW has played a key role in mobilising support from other industry sectors to help the tobacco industry dilute the revision of the 2001 Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). Recently disclosed meeting notes show that VNO organised two meetings in 2011 and 2012 that brought together European Industry Confederations and the tobacco industry to discuss the impact of the TPD. The first meeting took place on 14 December 2011 at the Brussels offices of VNO NCW, and was attended by German BDI, Luxembourg Fedil, Italian Confindustria, Greek SEV, Lithuanian LPK and Irish IBEC, plus British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris (PMI), and the European Smoking Tobacco Association (ESTA). Minutes of the meeting suggest that three aspects of the TPD were identified as having the potential to impact other sectors (in particular the Food and Alcohol Industries), notably:
- 1. Plain packaging;
- 2. Regulating ingredients (especially the “overly broad” WHO definition of “attractiveness” was challenged);
- 3. Access in the retail sector, including Point Of Sale displays and internet sales.
Illicit trade was also raised as a concern, with PMI making reference to the KMPG ‘Project Star’ report on illicit trade (which was commissioned by PMI and has since been criticised for exaggerating illicit trade figures).
On 10 January 2012, the group met a second time and this time also included BusinessEurope, CECCM, Spanish CEOE, Czech CEBRE, Swedish Svenkst, Belgian FEB-VBO, Danish DI, and Austrian IV. The group agreed to a “horizontal approach” to lobby at national and EU level, agreeing to raise the issues as whole-of-industry matters so they would not be associated with the tobacco industry.
“We are one of the few tobacco industry friends”
On 24 July 2013, Vrij Nederland (a Dutch magazine) published an article which, apart from detailing the EU meetings mentioned above, also included a phone interview with Niek Jan van Kesteren, Director General of VNO-NCW. In this interview, van Kesteren was quoted as saying that “We [VNO NCW] are one of the few friends of the tobacco industry” (translated from Dutch) and argued that the tobacco industry is an important part of the economy as it delivers government tax revenue and creates employment.
Revolving door: former VNO employee and now Dutch “Minister of Tobacco”
Working for VNO-NCW between 1997 and 2003 was current Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers, (dubbed in the Dutch media as "Minister of Tobacco" following a television documentary exposing intensive contact between her and the tobacco lobby).
- BusinessEurope, 41 members in 35 countries, Business Europe website, last updated 25 July 2013, accessed 25 July 2013
- H. van Breemen, Notes from meeting December 14, on EU TPD (Tobacco Product Directive), VNO NCW Brussels, 14 December 2011, accessed 25 July 2013
- H. van Breemen, Notes from meeting January 10, on EU TPD (Tobacco Product Directive), VNO NCW Brussels, 10 January 2012, accessed 25 July 2013
- I.van Woerden & S.Braam, De laatste vriend van de sigaret, Vrij Nederland 24 July 2013, accessed 25 July 2012
- Tabaknee, Van Kesteren aan staatssecretaris: ‘Benadeel tabaksindustrie niet’, 7 June 2015, accessed June 2015
- Eerste Kamer der Staten-Generaal, Kamerleden: Mr. N.J.J. van Kesteren (CDA), 9 June 2015, accessed June 2015
- Zembla, Minister van Tabak, VARA, 21 October 2011, accessed February 2012
- Government of the Netherlands, CV of Edith Schippers Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, undated, accessed 25 July 2013