A significant liberalisation of the rules for the movement of alcohol between EU member states has been made by the European Commission which says the present system is cumbersome and hard to understand.

The new rules will have the effect of abolishing the present "indicative" limits of 10 litres of spirits, 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer on which excise duty has been paid in the country of purchase and which are then taken home by the individual purchaser for his or her own use.

For commercial goods, Brussels says excise duty will still be payable in the destination country, but the procedures will be simplified and harmonised by providing for single identification in a central office in each country of destination, where foreign vendors must periodically pay excise duties on the basis of an overall declaration. The changes will benefit citizens and small-scale traders in particular.