The Finnish state-owned alcohol retail monopoly, Alko Oy, is planning to open stores near to the Finnish-Norwegian border in the Lapland region of northern Finland over the next few years.

The announcement comes as feelings are running high in Norway concerning high alcohol taxes and the resulting prevalence of cross-border shopping. Neighbouring Scandinavian countries, which unlike Norway are in the EU, have considerably lower alcohol duties.

The company's existing outlet near the border at Nuorgami already attracts customers from Norway where alcohol prices can be twice as high as in Finland. Alko is now considering opening stores in Hetta, Karigasniemi and Saariselka.

The Finnish Minister of Foreign Trade, Jari Vilen, is strongly in support of opening more Alko outlets along the border with a view to boosting cross-border shopping. Alko currently operates 295 outlets in Finland and will have more than 300 by the end of the year. It plans to open a further 10 to 15 stores in 2003.