Monday, October 22, 2012

Snus showdown: Sweden v. Malta – EU tobacco directive crashes and burns

If you are obsessed with EU news like I am you could not have missed last week’s big headline. EU Health Commissioner John Dalli resigned as a report from the European Anti-Fraud Office showed he was aware of a bribery attempt to change the new Tobacco directive to allow for the sale of Swedish snus (A Scandinavian form of tobacco that is like chew, but not quite - you just pop it under your lip and drool tarry gross drool instead) throughout Europe.

And then things go a little crazy. And the whole EU experiment – which functions despite a trillion cultural clashes – shows just how different all those little nation states are.

At first I thought Dalli was being sensible. The first reports said he resigned when shown the report so as not to tarnish the office and to focus on clearning his name.

But then? Then all hell broke loose.

The story being told in Sweden is this: Swedish Match, a Swedish tobacco company, was offered the chance to make the whole snus ban go away for the sum of about 60 million Euros, 10 million to be paid up front, 50 million after the ban went away. Swedish Match said no and reported the attempted bribe to the Ani-Fraud group.

And then, supposedly, the following happened:

 Dalli spoke up and said ‘No, no no’ this was not what happened at all.

First of all he didn’t even resign he was forced out by EC President Barroso.

Second, he said that the Swedish tobacco and politicians set his acquaintance up and asked about being able to pay to change the directive. That this is really a big scandal set up by Swedish tobacco to throw off the directive.

Now I know I am way too Swedish at this point – but bribery is soooo not a part of the Swedish business world. Not even a little bit. Unless it considered inescapable in regions of the world that are considered ‘too backwards to be democratic.’

Swedish business prides itself on being honest and competitive.

There is no way I could picture a bunch of Swedish politicians and business men approaching a Maltese business man and saying ‘How much do we have to pay to make this EU directive go away’

It would go against one of the key principles Sweden expects of the EU – that it is honest and democratic.

And this is when I started having HUGE question marks about Dalli.

Then there were the break-ins at anti-tobacco lobby offices where only the offices working on the Tobacco directive were robbed of their computers and documents. Many are blaming this on a huge EU conspiracy, but the first thought I had was ‘Aha, this was a pay to play operation.’ Not saying that is the case, but really? The EU breaking into lobbyist groups? Damn, am I becoming too blue-eyed despite my hazel roots? My first thought was that everyone was getting rid of the evidence.

At the end of the day, the best thing the EU can do is what it has done. Distance itself from Dalli and Swedish Match.

Unfortunately the tobacco directive cannot pass without independent review – for everyone’s sake.

Personally, I am not a fan of snus and find the ban to be a reasonable measure. I know Swedes LOVE snus and feel it has a lot of benefits, but it is just like every other tobacco product in that it is highly addictive and the tobacco companies make huge profits selling addictive goods to addicts.

BUT due to the controversy, new people need to make this decision, so that there can be NO doubt of the honesty and backbone of the EU Health Commission.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Another excuse from a busy blogger

Hi All!

I am still here - just digging my way out of what has been a huge project I have landed via my new little company (which has been going really well and is tons of fun). I thought I would be done this week, but looks like they have extended things one more week.

So I will TRY to update, but no promises. Until then, you can always practice your Swedish

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Cinnamon Roll Day!!!

Ahh cinnamon roll day. A made-up holiday created by bakers to sell more desserts. But not under some silly pretense, simply for the love of the cinnamon roll.

We need more holidays like this. Princess Cake day! Macaroon Day! Because dessert is worth celebrating (I am going to say we skip Chocolate ball day and all the debate that would likely ensue).

I have never baked cinnamon rolls before, usually that is in The Swede's half of the household chores - official cinnamon roll baker. But he had to work late. And Little Swede and I have been staying inside due to pretty crappy weather (I know there is no crappy weather, just crappy clothing - whatever, my cute Noa Noa raincoat is not so practical in this weather - and I am quickly growing out of pretty much everything I own). So I decided to make some cinnamon rolls instead of playing Brio trains for the 4th afternoon in a row.

And Little Swede and I did OK. Are they worth photographing and posting like I am some kind of food blogess? No. I actually made these first time cinammon rolls with a 2 year old. They don't look like something Pioneer Woman whipped up in her kitchen (OK, I don't read food blogs and that was the only one I could think of).

But, they tasted yummy. I mean, sugar, butter and cinnamon. Could you go wrong (I know, I probably could).

I used this recipe from - yes they are American style, but the Swedish recipes were all ginormous and I only wanted a few rolls. OK? I skipped the cream cheese frosting so it was a bit of a compromise.

Even if you don't bake your own, get out there and buy a nice cinnamon roll today (and if you are anywhere near a Cinnabon have one for me!)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

FVAP – It isn’t too late to register to vote!

Running this blog I get requests now and then to do sponsored posts and write about different products, but I always opt out. I am not a salesperson and I certainly don’t want to blog about something that I am not actually really excited about. Plus, I tend not to be a huge fan of sponsored posts on blogs I read, and thus think my readers would not be interested in reading that kind of content here. Let’s be honest, my goal with this blog is not to make money.

That said, when FVAP, the Federal Voting Assistance Program, asked me to join their group of bloggers posting about how easy it is for Americans living abroad can vote, I had to jump at the chance.


If you are an American – you should be voting in the upcoming elections. I am passionate about politics, and if I can do something to get one more person to register to vote, I am in.

It has never been easier. FVAP have set up an easy online system where you can do most of the registering over the Internet.

And it is not too late. FVAP has all the information you might need to help make sure your registration gets where it needs to be going.

I admit I was terrified of the voting process when I first moved abroad, it was tricky when I first left my home state. But really, these days it is easy. I swear.

I am attaching a widget to my site where, over the next few weeks you can register and get any information you may need about voting in the upcoming election.

You will also be forced to read a few blog posts by me about my previous voting woes and what it is like to vote from abroad. I will label all posts with FVAP in the title, so if you want to skip them I understand.

I was contacted by FVAP to write this series of blog posts, but I am not being compensated in any way.

I am voluntarily posting FVAP’s widget. The thoughts presented here are my own and do not reflect the opinions of FVAP or any of its representatives.