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16/08/2010

Answer to written question on State monopoly on the sale of alcohol in Finland and Sweden

Date published: July 15 2010

Question for written answer to the Commission Rule 117 Anna Hedh (S&D)

Subject : State monopoly on the sale of alcohol in Finland and Sweden

There has recently been correspondence between the Commission and Finland regarding whether it is compatible with existing EC law to allow wine to be sold at so-called vineyards. For example, ‘Message 007, Communication from the Commission — SG(2010) D/50724, Directive 98/34/EC(1), Notification: 2009/0181/FIN, Communication containing general information regarding the abovementioned notification', states, among other things: ‘Following the meeting of 3 March it now appears clear to the Commission services that the proposed amendments to the Finnish Alcohol Act, whereby certain fruit liqueurs (“tilalikööri”) could be sold at the production site and outside of the state monopoly, would indeed be contrary to Community law. Such an exception to circumvent the state monopoly, available only for locally produced fruit liqueurs and not for similar products coming from other Member States, would clearly contravene Article 34 (previously Article 28) of the Treaty, as it would be discriminatory.'

1. Does the Commission consider that selling self-produced wine, beer or spirits at a farm, brewery or factory is compatible with existing EC law on the basis of the state monopoly on the sale of alcohol in Finland and Sweden?

2. Or, rather, does it take the view that such selling discriminates against the right of producers in other Member States to sell their products on equal terms?

(1) OJ L 204, 21.7.1998, p. 37.

P-4451/10EN

Answer given by Mr Tajani on behalf of the Commission

Pursuant to Directive 98/34/EC[1], the Finnish authorities notified the Commission on 31 March 2009 of a draft proposal amending parts of the Finnish Alcohol Act under reference number 2009/181/FIN. This draft proposal aims at allowing the sale of certain fruit liqueurs directly on farms and outside of the state monopoly on retail trade of alcoholic beverages.

During the Finnish notification assessment, the Commission took the view that the notified text would be incompatible with Article 34 TFEU due to its discriminatory character should the text of the draft technical regulation under consideration be adopted without account being taken of the Commission's objections.

The dialogue between the Commission's services and Finland on this issue continues in the framework of the Directive 98/34/EC procedure and on the basis of the information at the Commission services' disposal Finland has not yet adopted its notified text.

As regards the Swedish state monopoly, the Commission cannot comment on this matter, since to date, Sweden has notified no similar draft legislation within the framework of the procedure set up by Directive 98/34/EC.

The Commission would like to draw the Honourable Member's attention to European Court of Justice Franzén-case (C-189/95) pursuant to which a licensing system for the importation of alcoholic beverages on the retail level is in conformity with Article 28 EC (now: Article 34 TFEU), provided that it sets up objective criteria that can be fulfilled equally by both domestic undertakings and undertakings from other Member States.

Consequently, the Commission reiterates its view, based on the above mentioned Court case, that any derogation from the state monopoly on retail trade of alcoholic beverages needs to be non-discriminatory in order to be considered compatible with Articles 34-36 TFEU.