New Italian submission raises free-trade concerns over Irish alcohol legislation
Italy has raised significant concerns about the impact of Ireland's planned alcohol legislation on free trade in a new submission made to the Irish Government in recent weeks.
Notes on the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill from Italy's ministry of agriculture, food and forestry highlighted its belief that some of the proposed measures could represent "a restrictive measure of the free movement of goods within the European Union".
It said that the provisions proposed under the legislation provided for local rules and restrictions for the marketing of alcoholic beverages here. The plan is that new rules will require labelling on drinks to carry very prominent warnings about the dangers of alcohol, in particular in relation to links between alcohol and cancer.
Said the notes: "The impact of the measures would be very detrimental to the producers of alcoholic beverages - in particular wine producers who export to Ireland, because new "labelling" rules would be imposed, which would entail a considerable increase in production costs related to creation of new and specific labels and packaging for products destined for the Irish market, both administrative and logistic.
"It is believed that there is a real risk of a total negation of the principles of free movement of goods because of the effects that would be produced on the market by the combination of the rules on labelling and advertising, overall aggravating the system of free movement of goods within the Union market."
However, the ministry agreed with a suggestion, from its compatriot ministry of health, that the European Commission could look at an EU-wide harmonisation of labelling messages. The health ministry's notes said that education was needed to tackle alcohol abuse and also asked why the Irish labelling was focusing on cancer and not other diseases linked to it.
This latest submission from Italy follows on from the 2016 submissions, made by 14 countries, in which several aspects of the Bill were criticised. France raised the issues of the Bill's compatibility with EU law, while some countries said that alcohol was safe in small amounts, unlike tobacco. Austria criticised the minimum pricing proposals.
It was reported in April that a confidential commission document submitted to the Irish Government raised significant concerns that the planned legislation would be in conflict with EU law.
The document claimed that the measures would place restrictions on trade or the freedom to provide services and said the commission would need to be satisfied that the measures are warranted on public health grounds.
Sunday Indo Business