The EU tells us: “According to conservative estimates, over 79 000 adults, including 19 000 non-smokers, died in the EU in 2002 due to exposure to tobacco smoke at home (72 000) and in their workplace (7300)”. This is a huge and obvious public health problem. Smokers go through life poisoning other people and if there were any justice they would all be dragged outside and shot in front of their families ( © 2011 Jeremy Clarkson). The EU came up with the more moderate measure of a Council of Ministers recommendation in 2009. As a result 17 EU countries have comprehensive smoke fee laws. But the reality in different countries is startling.
In the UK our legislators and civil servants “gold plate” EU legislation. They piggy back all sorts of extra measures on and then implement in a statist authoritarian manner. We citizens need to be controlled and told what to do. So our government have enforced the EU measures very strictly indeed with all public enclosed spaces and very many open places deemed smoke free. Pubs have been forced to erect external open sided structures for the addicts to use. The penalties for ignoring the rules are huge and rigidly enforced. This is how the British state works, lots of laws rigorously enforced so the state has total control over us. Our attitude to playing a straight bat with the EU also makes us a major financial contributor.
In France they have enacted and enforced the rules to the minimum. Bars and restaurants have huge glass and plastic structures like conservatories taking up most of the pavement, with big permanently open doors leading from them into the interior. These structures are counted as being “outside” so everyone smokes like crazy in them, filling up the whole place, inside and out, with smoke. So there is no such reality as “smoke free”. This is the French attitude to the EU, comply with the letter of the law but don’t enforce it in a way that would actually work. Extended to the EU budget France has always arranged things so as to contribute far less than Germany or the UK. Exactly as you would expect.
In Greece they like to pass all EU laws to the letter and then to totally ignore them. Then if asked totally lie about their failed enforcement. So it is with smoking, from 1 September 2010 Greek law bans smoking and consumption of tobacco products by other means, in all working places, transportation stations, in taxis and passenger ships (in trains, buses and airplanes smoking is already prohibited), as well as in all enclosed public places including restaurants, night clubs, etc., without any exception. But go to Greece and they still have ashtrays on the tables of bars and restaurants and the police will happily smoke away in the supposedly banned places, the law is completely ignored. The Greeks only interest in the EU is to have our money to finance their corrupt state.
What we see with smoking you can extrapolate to every area of policy. National attitudes and behaviour towards the EU are utterly and completely different. We throw a fortune at Spain (why?), Portugal, Greece and Eastern Europe so they love sitting there being crony benefactors. France and Germany believe the EU stops them fighting each other whilst Benelux and Scandinavia try to be good citizens. The obvious disparities and frictions are immense and it will never work as a super state, which is what so many EU politicians and civil servants want. It will only ever work as a free trade zone, the national disparities are just too huge.