spiritsNEWS November 2016

Internal Market: great principles; but regrettable that some Member States don’t apply them

While the EU internal market is regularly and rightly hailed as a success, it is not without its failings: on many occasions, at least in the spirits sector, it is individual Member States that cause the problems.  Two recent examples, from Croatia and Sweden, highlight some of the difficulties.  

In Croatia, our members have reported that their goods are routinely blocked when they try to enter the country and are not released until certification is produced to show that their packaging complies with EU legislation.  The fact that the spirits have been legally produced and packaged in another Member State, however, means that they should also have free access to that market.  Regrettably, this is not happening.  Furthermore, when goods are eventually allowed onto the market, the Croatian authorities insist that their labels include three separate environmental logos, even though it is hard to believe that any of them provide meaningful information to consumers.  There is no need for the Croatian authorities to apply either the market access barriers or the labelling requirements and we are seeking Commission help in improving the situation.

In Sweden, alcoholic beverages can only be sold through a state-owned retail monopoly, Systembolaget.  The latter is required not to discriminate.  However, Systembolaget is planning to change the way it applies its ‘mark-up’ on prices in a way that will bring significant financial benefit to beer and ‘ready to drink’ products (mainly domestically produced) and add significantly to costs of spirits and wine (mainly imported - entirely so in the case of wine).  The basis for the change remains unclear; we have asked repeatedly for a copy of the study which the monopoly says justifies its decision but Systembolaget has not yet released its research.  We are asking the Commission to ensure that the monopoly’s decisions are transparent and do not lead, even inadvertently, to discrimination in favour of domestic interests.  

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