Germany's packaging law has been attacked for blocking bottled water imports. "The German decree cannot be justified," said Advocate General Damaso Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer at the European Court of Justice yesterday.

Germany introduced a refilling scheme in 1998, whereby bottlers have to levy a deposit. In 2001 the European Commission brought a lawsuit against the country, saying the rules made it unfair for producers from outside Germany as it raised expenses for them.

The Commission argues that foreign bottlers are being forced to travel further than their German competitors to refill bottles at their springs. The Commission believes that the burden on the environment by such journeys outweigh the ecological advantages connected with the use of refillable containers.

Germany maintains, however, that the laws are the best way to protect the environment.