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Internal Market: Swedish Ban on Importation of Alcoholic Drinks is Contrary to EU Law
Contact Philip Bentley
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has declared that the ban on the importation of alcoholic drinks into Sweden except through the Swedish State monopoly is contrary to European law. Under Swedish law, only the State monopoly has the right to sell alcoholic drinks in Sweden. Alcoholic drinks may only be imported into Sweden through the State monopoly or wholesalers authorised by it. When a Swedish national was prosecuted for illegally importing alcoholic drinks, the Swedish Supreme Court asked the ECJ to rule on whether the ban was in line with European law. The ECJ found that the Swedish rule restricted the free movement of goods within the European Union and could not be justified on public health grounds, as the State monopoly did not seem to refuse orders or limit sales to young people for such reasons.
Mergers: Commission Clears Acquisition of First Choice by TUI
The European Commission has approved, subject to conditions, the acquisition of First Choice, a UK travel services company, by TUI, a German group active in tourism and shipping services. The Commission’s investigation showed that this acquisition could damage competition, as the transaction would create horizontal overlaps in the supply of package holidays in UK and Ireland. However, in the UK the new group would not be dominant on the markets concerned. In contrast, the new group would control 50 per cent of the short-haul package holidays market in Ireland. The group would also detain the largest Irish network of travel agencies. In answer to the Commission’s concerns, the TUI will divest its Irish business, Budget Travel.
Environment: REACH Enters into Force
The new European chemicals legislation, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) entered into force on 1 June 2007. REACH requires the registration over a period of 11 years of some 30,000 chemical substances in use today. The registration process will fill in the information gaps on hazards, and identify appropriate risk management measures for these chemical substances. The onus will be on industry to generate the data required. REACH is managed by the new European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) which started operations with the entry into force of REACH. The Agency also coordinates the evaluation process and can authorise the use of substances of “very high concern” (VHC).
Competition: Commission Sends Statement of Objections to Alleged Participants in Paraffin Wax Industry Cartel
The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections to a number of companies alleging that they participated in a cartel in the paraffin wax industry. Paraffin wax is mainly used for candles, but can also be used to coat hard cheese or grease the surface of surfboards. A South African petrochemical company has confirmed publicly that its two German units have received the Statement of Objections from the Commission. The companies have two months to submit a written defence to these allegations. If the Commission finds that a cartel was in operation, the companies concerned could face fines of up to 10 per cent of their worldwide turnover, depending on the gravity and duration of their infringement.
Customs: Commission Reports on Seizures of Counterfeit Goods in 2006
The European Commission has published statistics showing an increase of approximately 40 per cent in the amount of counterfeit and pirated goods seized at the Community’s external borders. China remains the main source of counterfeit goods accounting for over 80 per cent of the articles seized. A worrying aspect is the dramatic increase in imports of counterfeit medicines and personal care products that could potentially harm the health and safety of consumers. The primary source of counterfeit medicines is India, followed by the United Arab Emirates and China.
State Aid: Commission Investigates Italian Banks’ Tax Incentive
The European Commission has opened a formal investigation under EC State aid rules into Italy’s 2004 Finance Law. This Law provides that the capital reserves from Italian banks resulting from privatisation would, once released, be subject to a substitute tax of 9 per cent, in lieu of the standard corporate tax of 37.25 per cent. The global amount of all capital reserves of Italian banks using this system amounted to more than EUR 2 billion. Further, the banks were allowed to pay the substitute tax in three annual instalments without interest. Pursuant to the Commission’s calculations, the difference between the standard tax and the tax actually paid amounts to over EUR 586 million. As such, this could have a detrimental effect on competition in the ongoing bank consolidation process in Europe.
Internal Market: Public Consultations on Professional Codes of Conduct
On 4 June 2007 the European Commission launched public consultations with professional associations in the EU, requesting them to provide information on their professional codes of conduct, either existing or in preparation. These consultations arise out of the provisions of the Services Directive which aim to improve the quality of services by encouraging professional associations to develop European codes of conduct. The ultimate objective is to facilitate the free movement of service providers and to guarantee freedom of choice for consumers. Interested parties are invited to submit their views via an online questionnaire no later than 30 July 2007.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 11 June – Friday 15 June 2007
Agriculture and Fisheries Council (11 – 12 June 2007)
Justice and Home Affairs Council (12 – 13 June 2007)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Approximation of laws
C-6/05 Medipac – Kazantzidis
Environment and consumers
C-342/05 Commission v Finland
C-148/05 Commission v Ireland
C-82/06 Commission v Italy
C-56/06 Euro Tex
C-64/06 Telefónica O2 Czech Republic
C-334/05 P Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market v Shaker
C-127/05 Commission v United Kingdom
C-321/06 Commission v Luxembourg
C-434/05 Horizon College
C-422/05 Commission v Belgium
C-333/06 Commission v Sweden
C-5/06 Zuckerfabrik Jülich
Joined Cases C-23/06, C-24/06, C-25/06, C-26/06, C-27/06, C-28/06, C-29/06, C-30/06, C-31/06, C-32/06, C-33/06, C-34/06, C-35/06, C-36/06 Saint Louis Sucre
Approximation of laws
C-457/05 Schutzverband der Spirituosen-Industrie
C-355/06 van der Steen
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-105/05 Assembled Investments (Proprietary) v OHMI - Waterford Wedgwood (WATERFORD STELLENBOSCH)
T-339/05 MacLean-Fogg v OHMI (LOKTHREAD)
T-190/05 Sherwin-Williams v OHMI (TWIST & POUR)
Joined Cases T-60/04, T-61/04, T-62/04, T-63/04, T-64/04 Budějovický Budvar v OHMI - Anheuser-Busch (BUD)
Joined Cases T-57/04, T-71/04 Budějovický Budvar v OHMI - Anheuser-Busch (BUDWEISER)
Joined Cases T-53/04, T-54/04, T-55/04, T-56/04, T-58/04, T-59/04 Budějovický Budvar v OHMI - Anheuser-Busch (BUDWEISER)
T-167/05 Grether v OHMI - Crisgo (Thailand) - (FL FENNEL)