BELGIUM: Swedish alcohol laws take another EU pounding
The Swedish authorities have been hit by another blow in their battle with the European Union over the country's strict alcohol laws.
In a report issued yesterday (18 July) by a European Court of Justice adviser, the country was accused of putting wine at a disadvantage compared to beer sold in Sweden's state-owned alcohol monopoly Systembolaget.
"The fiscal regime is effectively influencing the potential consumption of wine and putting it at a disadvantage," said Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi. Wines are "primarily imported" from other member states, Mengozzi noted, with the majority of beer being produced domestically.
The Swedish government has been accused by the European Commission of discriminating against EU wines by charging higher tax rates on them. The country charges excise on alcohol depending on the abv of the product. While beer is charged with excise of around SEK7 per litre, a bottle of wine with an abv of between 8.5% and 15% is hit for around SEK22 per litre.
Earlier this year, the ECJ ruled that Sweden's ban on private consumers importing alcoholic beverages is an "unjustified quantitative restriction on the free movement of goods" under European Union (EU) law and cannot be legally justified by claims it reduces alcohol consumption.
Under Swedish law, alcohol imports are only permitted by Systembolaget. The law forces individuals to go through the monopoly to order alcohol, paying a margin of 17%, in addition to administrative and transport costs incurred by Systembolaget.
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