Tuesday

7th Jul 2020

EU court rules against Swedish alcohol restrictions

The EU's highest court has ruled that Sweden has no right to ban its citizens from importing alcohol into the country, saying it restricts the EU principle of the free movement of goods.

The European Court of Justice gave a preliminary ruling on Tuesday (5 June) saying that banning the import of alcohol ordered over the internet or sent home from a holiday abroad "amounts to an unjustified…restriction on the free movement of goods."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Systembolaget has a monopoly on the sale of alcohol in Sweden (Photo: Christian Koehn)

Alcohol in Sweden can only be bought in Systembolaget, which is a government owned chain of liquor stores and the only place allowed to sell alcoholic beverages that contain more than 3.5 percent alcohol volume.

Swede Karl Rosengren and ten others took the Swedish government to court when their Spanish wine - ordered via a Danish website - was confiscated at the Swedish border.

The case ended all the way up in the Swedish Supreme Court, which then asked the Luxembourg-based EU court for a preliminary ruling.

Sweden argued that the restriction was justified for reasons of public health. But the European court ruled that the restraint was "inappropriate for attaining the objective of limiting alcohol consumption generally and is not proportionate for attaining the objective of protecting young persons from the harmful effects of alcohol."

A glass of wine

"I will celebrate with a Merlot. The Rioja they confiscated," said Mr Rosengren about the Swedish authorities, according to Svenska Dagbladet. "The whole EU-idea is built on freedom. That's why I wanted to fight this issue," he explained.

The European Commission welcomed the move because it supports the EU principle of the free movement of goods and people.

"Now it's up to the Swedish Supreme Court to decide," said commission spokesman Oliver Drewes. The Swedish ruling is expected in the coming months and is likely to follow the EU ruling.

"It's fantastic!" centre-right Swedish MEP Christofer Fjellner told EUobserver. "It's great to see the EU and its institutions work for the free movement of goods," he added.

Mr Fjellner is also chairman of the "class action group for private imports" representing around 800 Swedes with alcohol deliveries stuck in customs warehouses.

What next?

He is doubtful that the outcome of the ruling will be the end of the Swedish government's alcohol monopoly, but said the judgment upholds the right of Swedes to choose what alcohol they want to buy and where.

Swedish public health minister Maria Larsson confirmed that the alcohol monopoly will stay put.

"Sweden's alcohol policies stay firm, with our goals to reach decreased alcohol consumption," she told reporters in Sweden, according to AP. "We will also work for restrictive alcohol policies," within the EU.

EU court blocks internet alcohol tax loophole

The EU's highest court has said that citizens buying alcohol and tobacco over the internet cannot avail of cheaper excise duties in other member states and have to pay the taxes of their home country. Some national governments are relieved by the verdict which averts multi-billion tax income losses.

Student unrest over Romania gender-studies ban

The amendment to the education law, approved by the Romanian parliament, is pushing the country closer to the authoritarian policies found in neighbouring Hungary and Poland, critics say.

Black MEP: 'I have been a victim of police violence'

MEPs urged an end to structural racism and discrimination in Europe and the US, following the brutal killing of black American George Floyd by US police. Socialists and Green MEPs stressed the need to unblock the anti-discrimination directive.

Black MEP: 'I have been a victim of police violence'

MEPs urged an end to structural racism and discrimination in Europe and the US, following the brutal killing of black American George Floyd by US police. Socialists and Green MEPs stressed the need to unblock the anti-discrimination directive.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video
  2. Parliament vaping booths 'too confidential' to discuss
  3. Belarus: Inside Lukashenko’s crackdown on independent voices
  4. The rationale behind US troop withdrawals from Germany
  5. Podcast: Nordic region speaks out on big global challenges
  6. Croatia re-elects PM amid corona downturn
  7. Budget talks shift gear This WEEK
  8. Cardinals speak out: EU needs corporate due diligence

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us