In a long-expected move, the European Commission is proposing to raise the minimum rate of excise duty on alcoholic drinks sold in the 25 EU countries by 31% in order to take account of inflation in the period since 1992 when the rates were last agreed.

In practice the move will have only a tiny effect since most member states already apply well above the minimum rate. For the countries, there is a transition period running up to 2010.

Thus, for the countries affected - Germany, Luxembourg, Czech. Lithuania, Latvia and Malta - the proposal will mean a rise of only one hundredth of a euro on a half litre of beer by 2010, and as Brussels says the effect would be "minimal".