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EU cross-border alcohol purchases – Building a common understanding

Lithuanian Drug, Tobacco and Alcohol Control Department hosts Nordic-Baltic Workshop on Cross-border Alcohol Purchases

The Nordic-Baltic workshop EU cross-border alcohol purchases – Building a common understanding was held in Vilnius 21 September, 2018. The workshop was hosted by the Lithuanian Drug, Tobacco and Alcohol Control Department (NTAKD) in cooperation with local and regional NGOs: Lithuanian Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition (NTAKK), IOGT-NTO Sweden and Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network (NordAN). Participants came from Health, Finance, Tax/Customs Ministries, institutions and departments from the three Baltic States and the three Nordic EU Member States.

The meeting was opened by Gražina Belian, Deputy Director of NTAKD, who noted that the substantial public health and financial impact for the Nordic-Baltic countries from cross-border alcohol purchases calls for multi-sector and regional cooperation. Nijole G. Midttun, President of NTAKK encouraged participants to continue building upon existing good practice of Nordic cooperation, aiming towards influencing alcohol control policies on the EU-level and expressed hope that the workshop would be a step in the right direction.

The event focused on the rules for cross-border purchases of alcohol by private individuals inside the EU (Article 32 of Directive 2008/118/EC). The rules apply to all Member States since 2004, when remaining exceptions were phased out. The European Commission is currently preparing a study on the potential public health effects of revising article 32 of the Directive.

The workshop helped increase the understanding of the challenges many Nordic-Baltic countries experience in relation to the current rules for private cross-border alcohol purchases. Challenges raised by participants included public health protection measures being undermined, distortions in the functioning of the internal market, negative effects on tax revenues and the rules being abused by organised crime for smuggling and tax evasion purposes. It was clear that the challenges experienced by countries varied over time. There were also large differences between countries on how these challenges were perceived.

Despite these differences, several areas of common interest were identified by the participants. One that gained most support was to the need for better comparable statistics on cross-border sales volume. Today no such information is collected in Lithuania and Latvia, while information is quite accurate in Sweden, Estonia and Finland. Interest was also expressed for closer cooperation between countries and across ministerial boundaries.

Gražina Belian, Deputy Director at Drugs, Tobacco and Alcohol Control Department

Nijolė Goštautaitė Midttun, President of Lithuanian Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition

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