The European Commission has rejected Sweden’s plea for an indefinite extension of the laws limiting the amount of tax-free alcohol that may be imported into the Scandinavian country, saying the restrictions will have to end by the end of 2003. Sweden has argued that the restrictions were needed to protect public health by limiting alcohol consumption. But the Commission said an indefinite extension would breach the fundamental right of citizens to travel throughout the EU without incurring new taxes or duties on goods on which tax had already been paid. The Swedes will have to apply progressive increases in current tax-free allowances. This will mean that the present one litre of spirits will rise to two litres from the beginning of 2002 and to five litres from the beginning of 2003. The present allowance of five litres of wine will rise to 26 litres from July 1st this year and then to 52 litres from the start of 2003. The Commission believes that this arrangement, which has been the subject of extremely lengthy negotiations, is a “fair and reasonable compromise” which gives Sweden a little more time to introduce an anti-drinking campaign. However the Swedes may still press their case in the EU Council of Ministers which has been sympathetic to the Swedish argument.

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