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EUROPEAN UNION

Danish envoy returns to Iran after foiled assassination plot

Denmark said Tuesday its ambassador would return to Iran this week, three weeks after he was recalled over Copenhagen's assertion that Tehran tried to kill three Iranian dissidents on Danish soil.

Danish envoy returns to Iran after foiled assassination plot
A file photo of a foreign ministry press meeting. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

“The ambassador is going back to Iran on Thursday,” Danish foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne Møller told AFP.

Denmark has accused Tehran of plotting an “attack” against three Iranians believed to be members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) who live in Denmark.

Tehran blames ASMLA, which it calls a terrorist organisation, for an attack on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz on September 22nd, spraying the crowd with gunfire and killing 24 people.

Iran has rejected the Danish allegations, claiming Tehran's enemies are conspiring to ruin its relations with Europe.

Copenhagen has been consulting with its European allies about possible sanctions against Tehran.

“In the meeting yesterday (Monday), we received a lot of support. We are still looking at what kind of sanctions can be applied to Iran,” Møller said.

“A new phase has begun to counter Iran's unacceptable behaviour. Danish diplomacy will focus heavily on supporting these efforts in European capitals, in Brussels and in Tehran,” a foreign ministry statement said.

READ ALSO: EU to consider sanctions on Iran for failed attack plots in France, Denmark

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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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