Thursday 18 July 2019

Health warnings on alcohol cans and bottles may breach EU single market rules, says Hogan

Wading in: EU Commissioner Phil Hogan gave the warning. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Wading in: EU Commissioner Phil Hogan gave the warning. Photo: Fergal Phillips
John Downing

John Downing

Health warnings on alcohol bottles and cans - including graphic cancer alerts - may be deemed in breach of single market rules, Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has warned.

Brussels officials have confirmed that the controversial legislation passed last October by TDs and senators, framing more stringent rules on alcohol sales with measures like minimum unit pricing and cancer warnings on alcohol products, has also met with initial EU Commission approval.

The drinks trade was enraged by the provision which envisages printed warnings that drink is a big factor in causing cancer.

It has challenged the scientific basis for this.

Mr Hogan was speaking in Brussels amid continued speculation that he will get a second five-year EU term when his current appointment expires next November.

He has indicated he is keen to stay in the EU Commission but suggests the issue will not be finalised until the EU leaders meet next June.

The Irish Commissioner is rated in Brussels and tipped for a senior post in any new administration. The nomination decision rests with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The EU Commission is up for renewal next autumn, but just six of the current team are likely to get the nod again.

An assessment by the public health services in the EU executive has ruled that the new Irish law is aimed at reducing harmful drinking. But the EU's farm services and single market wing remain unconvinced that unilateral Irish laws are the way to go, and argue that alcohol product labelling rules should be agreed across the trading bloc.

That is also the view of Mr Hogan, who says he is always sympathetic to measures aimed at reducing the scourge of alcohol abuse.

"I believe we should have EU-wide rules for labelling regulations rather than one member state striking out on their own," he told the 'Farming Independent'.

Asked directly if he approved of the provisions in the new Irish anti-drink law, he said: "I don't think they're well thought out on the impact they will have on small businesses.

"I think they should have negotiated EU-wide rules on these issues rather than striking out on their own."

Mr Hogan is responsible in his role for farm-related products, including wine.

He argues that several key wine-exporting states may be obliged to print specific labels for Ireland and many may opt instead to abandon the relatively small Irish market altogether.

Irish Independent

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