Sweden’s alcohol ban meets EU law

A Swedish law that bans the importing of alcohol unless a person physically brings it into the country, IS compatible with EU law, according to the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice.

In a statement on Thursday, the Advocate General said ”a ban on private import of alcoholic drinks by individuals, as laid down by the law on alcohol, is not in principle contrary to article 31 of the EU treaty.”

Today’s statement, which is only advice, not a ruling, came as no surprise following last week’s ruling by the court on the interpretation of article 31 that states ”in the case of products bought by private individuals and transported by them, they should be taxed at the rate charged in the country where the alcohol was bought.” The court ruled that ”transported by them should be strictly interpreted, ruling out the buying of alcohol delivered by truck and oredered over the internet.

In that case, a dutch wine club complained about having had to pay extra duty in their own country on a wine delivery from France. In the Swedish case, Klas Rosengren, who with 10 others, ordered wine from Spain through a Danish Web site in an effort to get it cheaper. Systembolaget confiscated the wine.

Rosengren took his case all the way to Sweden’s Supreme Court, which asked the EU’s Court of Justice to rule on whether the ban was justified.

The opinion will be used by the panel of judges at the European Union’s highest court, and is followed in a majority of cases. The final ruling is still months away.

”If the proposal goes through, it is a victory for the Swedish public health,” said Systembolaget spokesman Bjorn Rydberg. ”This is good news.”