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EUROPEAN UNION

Mogherini ranked among world’s most powerful women

Italy’s former Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini is among the world’s most powerful women, according to a ranking compiled by the magazine, Forbes.

Mogherini ranked among world's most powerful women
Italy's Federica Mogherini was ranked 19th in the Forbes "most powerful women list" of 2016. Photo: AFP

Mogherini, who became the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs in 2014 against an onslaught of criticism, came 19th among the 100 “most powerful women in the world” ranked by the magazine, 17 places higher than in 2015.

Mogherini, who works on behalf of 500 million EU citizens, was credited for her role in helping to broker a historic missile agreement between Iran and six world superpowers in July 2014.

The mother of two, who turns 42 on June 16th, has also represented the EU on issues ranging from the Ukrainian crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the influx of migrants to Europe.

Mogherini, the daughter of film director Flavio Mogherini, stepped into the role in November 2014 after being appointed by the EU’s 28 nation bloc, a decision that was tainted with criticism not only for her lack of experience but also because of her decision to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on her first overseas visit as Italy’s foreign minister earlier in the same year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel ranked number one in the Forbes list, followed by Hillary Clinton; Janet Yellen, chair of the US Federal Reserve; Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors.
 

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EUROPEAN UNION

KEY POINTS: Is the EU really planning to double the price of Swedish snus?

Claims over the weekend that the EU planned to bring in a new tax which will nearly double the price of Swedish 'snus' tobacco led to the hashtag #Swexit trending over the weekend. But a commission spokesman stressed on Monday that the story was inaccurate.

KEY POINTS: Is the EU really planning to double the price of Swedish snus?

Where does the claim come from? 

The Aftonbladet newspaper on Sunday ran a story based around a “secret, leaked” proposal from the European Commission for a new excise tax on tobacco which the newspaper claimed would be presented at the start of next month, with discussion then taking place between various EU member states. 

The article does not name a source or quote from or show any parts of the document, but it quotes Patrik Hildingsson, the head of communications at the snus producer Swedish Match, who it says has “received the coming report”. 

What was the reaction? 

The story generated a near viral response on Swedish Twitter. The Sweden Democrats party jumped on the story, with the Twitter account for the party’s EU MEPs tweeting using the hashtag #Swexit, which then started to trend. 

According to Charlie Weimers, one of the Sweden Democrats’ MEPs, the commission is proposing a 12.5 percent increase in tax on cigarettes, a 200 percent increase in taxes on snus, and 500 percent increase in taxes on tobacco-free snus.

In a way, this is unsurprising as snus is used by about 17 percent of people in Sweden. The tobacco product is made by grinding up tobacco with flavourings and other ingredients and placing it in small bags which are pushed under the upper lip. It has been linked to a higher incidence of mouth cancer, but is much less dangerous than smoking. 

Why is snus sensitive for Sweden? 

When Sweden joined the European Union in 1995, it was granted an exemption from the ban on oral tobacco products the European Union had brought in back in 1992. Companies are allowed to manufacture snus in Sweden and sell it to their citizens, but they are not allowed to sell snus in other EU counties.  

Is it true that the European Commission plans to force higher tax on snus? 

Dan Ferrie, a European spokesperson on tax issues, told the EU’s daily press briefing on Monday that the commission’s coming proposals on tobacco taxation would not affect Sweden’s freedom to tax the product. 

“Sweden has had an exemption since it entered the EU when it comes to the sale of snus,” he said. “The proposal that we are working on right now is not going to change that situation because the sale of snus is not permitted outside Sweden. Sweden ill as a result continue to have full freedom to set its own tax rate and tariffs for snus.” 

Already on Sunday, Sweden’s EU commissioner Ylva Johansson said that she had stressed to the commission developing the new proposals the “unreasonable consequences for Swedish snus” if it were to force a higher tax rate. 

“My judgement is that this proposal has not yet been developed to the level where it can be proposed,” she said in an sms to Swedish state TV broadcaster SVT. “Tax questions require unanimity within the Ministerial Council.”

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