EU: National Alcohol Policy Parliamentary Question
Member of the European Parliament Petri Sarvamaa (PPE) has submitted a question for written answer to the European Commission in response to the government of Finland’s alcohol legislation reform.
Mr Sarvamaa is a Finish MEP with the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and Vice-Chair of the Committee on Budgetary Control.
“Overall reform of the Alcohol Act in Finland — Trade barriers for distance selling across borders”
The Finnish Government is proposing to reform alcohol legislation in Finland. In July 1996 the Commission asked the Finnish Government to clarify the provisions of the existing alcohol law regarding consumers’ right to import alcoholic beverages for personal consumption from another Member State.
In August 1996, the Finnish Government explained that the alcohol legislation in force does not de facto prohibit distance selling from another Member State. The Commission was at this point satisfied, and did not demand any corrective actions.
However, in the current proposal by the Finnish Government, Finland would de jure ban cross-border distance selling of alcoholic beverages. Meanwhile, the proposal would still allow Alko, the national alcoholic beverage retailing monopoly, to continue domestic distance selling and delivery of alcoholic beverages to customers in Finland.
How does the Commission interpret the Member States’ sovereign right to put such trade barriers on cross-border distance selling, while still continuing similar domestic trade by the State monopoly?
How does the Commission see the Government’s reform proposal in light of Article 37 TFEU on State monopolies and Articles 34-36 TFEU on the free movement of goods?”
European Commission Answer
On July 28, Commissioner Bieńkowska responded on behalf of the European Commission:
Within the framework of the notification procedure laid down by Directive (EU) 2015/1535, the Finnish authorities notified a draft Alcohol Act to the Commission on 14 December 2016. The aim of Directive (EU) 2015/1535 is to promote the smooth functioning of the internal market by establishing a preventive control mechanism concerning aspects that may hinder trade in goods or, with respect to information-society services, the free movement of services and the right of establishment.
On 15 March 2017, within the meaning of Article 6(2) of Directive (EU) 2015/1535, the Commission issued a detailed opinion concerning the draft Alcohol Act submitted by the Finnish authorities. According to Directive (EU) 2015/1535, the notifying Member State shall report to the Commission on the action it proposes to take on any such detailed opinion. The Commission shall then comment on this reaction.
The Commission is currently engaged in a dialogue with the Finnish authorities so as to ensure that any measure taken by Finland is compatible with EC law.”