Spirit drinks legislation: much done; much to do; not much time

With the final stages of the discussions on a new spirit drinks regulation taking place, EU spirits producers hope that pragmatism will prevail, as has been the case with so many of the improvements already made.  There remain, however, areas of potential concern.

On the new labelling provisions (for allusions and mixtures) we hope that the law will not result in a situation where a protected category name (rum, whisky, etc.) can appear prominently on a spirit which contains only a tiny percentage of the protected category.  Responsible producers want to compete fairly with each other and therefore oppose rules which could allow labels to give undue emphasis to renowned spirits which, while part of a mixed drink, are present only in small quantities.   

On spiritsEUROPE’s longstanding request for the new law to maintain the existing flexibility to update category definitions when that is required, we understand Member States now accept amendments should be permitted, but only for 3 years.  We consider that to be wholly inadequate; we exist in a vibrant and innovative sector where technical adjustments (and corrections) to legal definitions are sometimes necessary.  The law should reflect the need for evolution, not introduce arbitrary timelines that could discourage innovation: we very much hope the proposed sunset clause will be withdrawn.

Finally, while all the efforts over the last 2 years are presented as ‘aligning’ the current rules to the Lisbon Treaty, the reality is that the spirit drinks regulation has been re-written and there are huge areas where completely new rules will apply.  It is impossible to know how it will all work in practice and consequently we believe that the whole law should benefit from a transition period to allow all parties to adjust and to provide space to resolve the difficulties which are going to emerge.