SpiritsEUROPE calls for investigation into the Irish new alcoholic beverages labelling rules

It believes the draft regulation represents a disproportionate trade barrier that hampers the free movement of goods
Targeted alcohol harm-reduction measures focused on at-risk groups are likely to prove more effective and efficient than broad, untargeted policy approaches which affect the entire population according to a new report commissioned by spiritsEUROPE, the trade association representing the European spirits sector.

Regulation would require additional Ireland-specific labelling information, including text-based health warnings on alcoholic beverages

SpiritsEUROPE has submitted a formal complaint asking the European Commission to open an infringement procedure against Ireland for breaching EU law with its planned new regulation on labelling rules for alcoholic beverages.

It said the proposed measures risk fragmenting the Internal Market by deviating from EU harmonised labelling rules. They also represent a disproportionate trade barrier not justifiable under EU law based on the public evidence put forward.

SpiritsEUROPE believes that the draft regulation – which would require additional Ireland-specific labelling information, including text-based health warnings on alcoholic beverages – represents a disproportionate trade barrier hampering the free movement of goods.

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 pictogrammes.

This would make it considerably more complex and more expensive for non-Irish producers and distributors from within and outside the EU to make their products available to Irish consumers.

The planned restrictions would therefore undermine the integrity and functioning of the EU’s Single Market and hamper trade with third countries – a fundamental concern that has equally been raised by other food and beverage industry organisations as well as a record number of thirteen EU Member States and several non-EU countries among our main trading partners.

“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,” said Ulrich Adam, director general of spiritsEUROPE.

“In addition, the 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,” Adam added.

In its complaint, spiritsEUROPE outlines why the draft measures cannot be justified under Article 36 of the Treaty and constitute a disproportionate barrier to trade in the Single Market.

“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,” added Adam. “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 matter has further been complicated by the fact that the evidence submitted by Ireland to the European Commission to justify its measures has remained inaccessible to the public.

Adam continued: “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.”

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