SpiritsEUROPE, which represents producers of alcoholic spirits at EU level, has lodged a formal complaint asking the European Commission to open an infringement procedure against Ireland for what it says is a 'breach of EU law' with the country's planned new regulation on labelling rules for alcoholic beverages.
The representative body believes that the proposed measures risk fragmenting the internal market and represent a disproportionate trade barrier, hampering the free movement of goods.
The draft regulation calls for additional Ireland-specific labelling information, including text-based health warnings on alcoholic beverages.
In practice, the new rules would prevent economic operators from selling alcoholic beverages legally sold in all other EU Member States in Ireland unless the products were re-labelled with additional information on the grams of alcohol and on the number of calories in the container, as well as health warnings text and pictograms, SpiritsEUROPE added.
The regulation would make it more complex and expensive for non-Irish producers and distributors from within and outside the EU to make their products available in Ireland.
'Harmonised Labelling Rules'
Ulrich Adam, director general of spiritsEUROPE commented, "For good reasons, the right to restrict the freedom of movement of goods in the single market is subject to strict rules: trade barriers must be justified and proportionate, meaning that no other options, less restrictive of the trade between member states are available to Ireland. We believe Ireland has failed to demonstrate the admissibility of their measures on both these criteria.
"In addition, the [European] Commission is bound to present new, harmonised labelling rules for alcoholic beverages soon. In such a situation, common practice has it that plans for deviating national rules should be paused."
SpiritsEUROPE has cited Article 36 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union to argue why the draft measures cannot be justified and constitute a disproportionate barrier to trade in the single market.
'An Insufficient Analysis'
Adam added, "We fully acknowledge and respect Ireland’s right to take action to ensure a high level of protection of the public health of its citizens. Numerous meaningful, proportionate, and evidence-based public health measures to help reduce alcohol-related harm are available.
"However, it would appear that Ireland conducted an insufficient analysis of the proportionality of their particular policy choices on labelling, as other suitable, yet less restrictive options to trade clearly exist."
The evidence submitted by Ireland to the European Commission to justify its measures has remained inaccessible to the public, SpiritsEUROPE noted.
"We believe the public has a right to know which evidence has been collected and examined by Ireland and the European Commission to consider the planned measures justified and proportionate. In the interest of transparency and better law-making, we believe the assessment should be made accessible to the public in full," Adam noted.