American European Community Association

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The American European Community Association (AECA) was founded in 1981 by the British politician Roy Jenkins and the then chairman of Rothmans International Sir David Nicolson.1
According to a founding document2 sent to tobacco companies its objectives were to encourage free trade, the sharing of knowledge, political cooperation and closer cultural links. It would do this through a series of conferences, seminars, lecture tours, media activity, social gatherings and the sponsoring of cultural events.3


Its founding patrons were a roll call of MEPS, politicians, ambassadors and businessman from across Europe and the US. The UK patrons were listed as the British former prime minister Edward Heath, SDLP founder Roy Jenkins, Lord Pritchard, Dr. Roy Strong,4 Sir Frank Roberts,5 Sir Anthony Tuke6 and Lord Sherfield (born Robert Makins).7
Its management committee as of 19818 was listed as: MEP Anthony Simpson9 (Deputy Chairman), Pamela Entwistle (Executive Director) who subsequently became director of the Kangaroo Group,10 Danish MEP Kent Kirk, Hildegaard Lewis Jones, Andre de Louckx, L. Levine, James Moorhouse,11 Charles Nicolson (Lord Nicolson’s son), Italian MEP Sergio Pininfarina and Michael Shanks.
This mix of senior civil servants, politicians and business leaders continues to be reflected in the make-up of the organisation. However, the corporate representatives appear to dominate its agenda.12

Current Members

The AECA has offices in the UK, Czech Republic, Netherlands, America and Canada. Its headquarters is in Brussels.13
By 2011, there were 67 company members including BAT, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris. In July 2019, of the ‘big 4’ tobacco companies, only Philip Morris International (PMI) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) were listed as members.14
André Calantzopoulos,CEO at Philip Morris International has previously held a position on the AECA board.15

Tobacco Industry Links

From its earliest stages, Philip Morris provided administrative support to the American chapter of the AECA.16 However, according to internal documents, its relationship was a lot closer than that. A memo from Andrew Whist, senior Philip Morris strategist, reports that he met with senior officials from the AECA to order that James Elles, a Conservative MEP become its director general following the resignation of Alain Morvan. Whist said:

In the evening, I met with James Elles, to give him his marching orders. On Monday morning, I met with Sir David Nicholsonand Alain Morvan to wind up Alain’s affairs before going on to Lausanne for a meeting with all the participants in our ETS program in Europe and elsewhere. There is an urgent need to increase the flow of scientific refutations and increase our cadre of scientists.17

In a deposition filed in the case of Oklahoma versus R.J. Reynolds Andrew Whist said that he was introduced to AECA by Lord Nicolson’s son Charles Nicolson having met him socially. He said that the AECA’s objectives of closer European union chimed with him personally so he took a role with the organisation and Philip Morris subsequently gave money to it.18
The AECA certainly proved a useful forum for allowing key people in the US, in particular legislators, to meet tobacco representatives and EU counterparts. It didn’t involve just seminars but also more fun activities such as trips to the Superbowl.19
A complaint by the Minnesota Ethical Practices Board about the funding by Philip Morris of trips by US legislators stated that organisations such as the AECA “appear to be nothing more than conduits through which Philip Morris channels money to public officials”.20
At the turn of the century the efforts of the tobacco industry to use the AECA as a lobbying front were exposed in a report by the World Health Organisation.21 The report described the Boca Raton Action Plan as aimed at “redirecting” WHO’s tobacco control efforts. According to its study of industry documents, one tactic was:

the creation or manipulation of seemingly independent organizations with strong tobacco company ties. The documents show that some of these organizations such as LIBERTAD, the New York Society for International Affairs, the America-European Community Association and the Institute for International Health and Development, were used successfully to gain access to dozens of national and world leaders, health ministers, WHO and other United Nations agency delegates.21

In 1990 it proposed setting up a chapter for Spain and Portugal “to supplement our lobbying activities by developing direct access to key politicians”.22

Links with EU Officials

According to the tobacco industry documents, AECA’s principal link has been with Philip Morris. PMI has previously been listed as one of the organisation’s three benefactors.23 However Philip Morris’s main involvement has been with the group’s American chapter.
This chapter has drawn in European Union politicians and civil servants who have attended trips and meetings with US counterparts. A Philip Morris report gives details of one such trip.24 Among the people the American politicians met was Alan Donnelly, then a UK Labour Party member of the European Parliament and chairman of The Inter-Parliamentary Delegation of the European Parliament to the United States. He subsequently gave his name to an industry campaign aimed at showing high street tobacco sellers were tough on under-age smokers.25 Donnelly left politics to found the lobbying company Sovereign Strategy.26
While Philip Morris was taking the lion’s share of interest in AECA, efforts by the organisation to interest other tobacco firms in supporting their efforts were less successful. Letters from the office of BAT’s chairman show the AECA making a number of offers to attend meetings and lunches in the mid 1980s, which were politely declined.27 BAT had previously been a member of the AECA but its subscription lapsed in the mid 1980s.

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  1. AECA website, AECA home page, Accessed December 2011. The ‘origins and mission’ section makes the common mistake of spelling Nicolson with an ‘h’.
  2. Tobacco Institute, Untitled AECA document
  3. A typical example is this AECA Programme, Autumn 1981
  4. Wikipedia, Wikipedia biography, Accessed December 2011
  5. Independent, Sir Frank Roberts obituary, 9 January 1998, Accessed May 2019
  6. Daily Telegraph,Sir Anthony Tuke obituary, 8 March 2001, May 2019
  7. Independent, Lord Sherfield obituary, 11 November 1996, May 2019
  8. Philip Morris, AECA List of Patrons, 27 May 1981
  9. Currently treasurer of the European Federation for Street Children, Accessed May 2019
  10. Independent, Kangaroo Group bound for passport control, 2 December 1992, Accessed May 2019
  11. Though not listed on the AECA List of Patrons document as such, presumably the Conservative MEP of the same name as this Wikipedia entry, Accessed December 2011
  12. AECA, AECA members list, Accessed May 2019
  13. AECA website,AECA offices, Accessed May 2019
  14. AECA Member Companies and Organisations, AECA website, Accessed July 2019
  15. Organization, AECA website, archived 21 June 2015, accessed July 2019
  16. Philip Morris, Corporate Affairs Status Report, 1983
  17. Philip Morris, Trip Report – London, Lausanne – May 22-24, 1988
  18. Oklahoma versus R.J. Reynolds, Deposition of Ulf Whist, June 29 1998, p13
  19. Mississippi tobacco litigation Deposition of Henry Turner, January 13 1997, p38
  20. Minnesota Ethical Practices Board Gift of travel expenses, August 8 1997
  21. abWorld Health Organisations, Tobacco Company Strategies to Undermine Tobacco Control Activities at the World Health Organisation, July 2000
  22. Philip Morris, Corporate Affairs Work Plan, 1990
  23. AECA website, benefactors, AECA website, archived 18 November 2012, accessed July 2019
  24. Philip Morris, An Introduction to Brussels, July 1997. See also Community Crime Fighters where Donnelly meets long-term tobacco lobbyist Stanley Aronoff
  25. National Federation of Retail Agents, Newsagents Get Tough on Kids Who Smoke, the subsequent page lists signatories to the campaign
  26. For background see How Labour’s Favourite Lobbyist is pushing hacking campaign, Daily Telegraph, 24 July 2011, Accessed September 2011
  27. See for instance Letter from Paul Dietrich, 20 February 1992