In an attempt to reduce alcohol smuggling the European Commission is planning to abolish the differences in tax duties across the 15 EU member states.

A report by the Financial Times newspaper says the commission believes the current system of taxes on alcohol is an obstacle to the creation of a single European market, one of the EU's main objectives.

The current regime only sets a minimum level of duties for each alcohol product, which effectively allows governments to set duties at whatever level they like.

But Fritz Bolkestein, the EU single market commissioner, is now considering a number of alternatives. The plans may prove controversial with countries such as the UK opposed to EU wide rules on taxation,

Possibilities for change include a rise in minimum rates in line with inflation, the introduction of a higher set of rates based on the medium rate across the EU, or the scrapping of minimum rates.

Once finalised, the plans will be presented to the member states.

The European Beverage Consumption Manual 2001