Brussels concerned about labelling proposals

The European Commission has responded to the labelling Amendments submitted to it last January by the Irish government as part of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

In comments on these Amendments recently sent to the Irish government, Brussels has described as ‘disproportionate’ the plan to allocate a minimum of one-third of alcohol labels for health and carcinogen warnings.

While appreciating the need to reduce alcohol-related harm, the Commission’s comments, which were sent to the Irish government and which were published online by Politico, re-iterate that such measures should be “evidence-based, proportionate and implemented on a non-discriminatory basis”.

The Commission has found that Ireland has not provided any justification “for such a big proportion of the label being allocated to health warnings” and asks, “Would not the same objective be achieved if the health warnings had a smaller, yet visible, size?”.

In expressing its concern about the impact that this requirement would have on the export of alcoholic beverages to Ireland, the Commission considers the size of the warnings to be disproportionate to the aim pursued – public health protection – in circumstances where the Irish authorities have not provided any justification in support of the requirement for such a big portion of the label being allocated to health warnings”.

Similarly, the Commission has doubts about whether the proposed restrictions on advertising alcohol might “impede access to the market by products from other Member States more than it impedes access by domestic products, with which consumers are instantly more familiar”.

It makes the point that, “The proposed prohibition would mean that for instance a magazine distributed all over Europe that contains only one page of advertising which advertises an alcoholic product would need to be reprinted before being lawfully marketed in Ireland”.

Finally, in regard to the broadcast advertising watershed the Commission pointed out that “audiovisual media service providers (including broadcasters) must comply only with the rules of the Member State under whose jurisdiction they fall (country of origin principle)” and it poses the question, “Could the Irish authorities confirm that the scope of the application of the notified draft is limited to broadcasters under Irish jurisdiction?”.

The Irish government is obliged to respond to these questions from Brussels before it can proceed to Report and Final Stage, while formal objections from Italy and Portugal have pushed back the ‘standstill period’ to the 20th July.



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