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Posts Tagged ‘beer import’

At last some sensible words from our elected representatives. But, mostly, it was because they were forced to do it by European legislation. Even for this non-member, echoes of the principles in the Treaty of Rome actually give us some taste of freedom.

So the Health Committee in the Norwegian parliament passed the draft last week, it will be passed in the first chamber tomorrow and then in the second chamber before their summer recess. You can follow the proposal on its way through the system on Stortinget’s web pages. The draft says the revised law will enter into force form 1 July.

No one expects this to change the Norwegian alcohol market very much, at least not when you look at the big numbers. This is for the ones who want to order wine directly from the producers or beer straight from the breweries or specialist beer shops.

How will it all work out?

We’ll have to test the new system, ordering beer from online shops across Europe. It is probably sensible for a number of us to join forces, this will cut both shipping costs and any fees for paperwork.

Some wine agents claim it will be cheaper to order their beers from Spain rather than through Vinmonopolet. But wine generally has a higher price tag per unit, perhaps making it more viable.

One thing is for sure, there is no way we can get cheaper pale lagers through direct import. For me this is all about better access to craft beers. I’ll keep you informed.

Any Norwegian readers who want to join in a common order, or any European beer retailers who want some customers in Norway, please e-mail me. Any other Scandinavians with experience of web orders are also welcome to comment. Maybe direct orders from micros is the way to do it?

Porter on tap - German sign

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Heavy load

Heavy load

Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten tries a new angle – this time it is not Norwegians stocking up on beer, wine and stronger stuff in Sweden. It’s Swedes doing the same in Germany.

Expensive toll bridges, petrol and ferries means they have to buy quite a lot for this to be profitable. But they do. Legally.

The European Union has large quotas for alcohol. And if you can convince the customs officers its for personal use, the sky is the limit. Or, more precisely, your car.

While the beer list is not remarkable in scope, with those prices there are temptations for everyone. I wouldn’t mind paying 3.75 € for a 75 cl bottle of Duvel. But if you look at the promotional flyers on their web page, most customers go for Danish or Swedish beers to take back home. Not the most green way to arrange things….

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We have had some hilarious posts in the past about Alan in Canada trying to send me a few beers from a mail order company in the Netherlands, with the Norwegian authorities pointing out that individuals are not allowed to import alcoholic beverages. It ended up with the beer bottles costing about five times as much as they did when they left Amsterdam.

Sweden has had a similar system, which has been eroded by large quotas for travellers inside the European Union, and the European Court decided earlier this year that the Swedish import ban could not be justified by public health arguments. At the time, there were some discussions about the implications for Norway as well.

Norway is not a member of the European Union, but we have a rather curious construction called the European Economic Area (EEA), where Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein (don’t ask!) adopts EU legislation, pays a fee and is thereby a part of the internal market. This setup was made when the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) still had members like Sweden, Finland and Austria, who have since joined the EU.

I do not often have the pleasure of quoting the EFTA Surveillance Autority on my blog, but yesterday they made history:

Today the EFTA Surveillance Authority delivered a reasoned opinion to Norway in which it stated that the Norwegian restrictions on the private imports of alcoholic beverages are in violation of the principle of the free movement of goods established in Artice 11 of the EEA Agreement.

Since the proceedings against Norway were initiated by the EFTA Surveillance Authority in 2004, the Norwegian Government has maintained that the restrictions form a part of the monopoly on the retail sale of alcoholic beverages.

The EFTA Surveillance Authority agrees that Norway is allowed to maintain its monopoly on retail sales on Norwegian soil. However, the issue of imports of alcoholic beverages for personal use should be treated separately under the free movement provisions. Indeed, in a preliminary ruling of 5 June 2007, the Court of Justice of the European Communities found that a similar system of import restrictions in place in Sweden was separable from the issue of the retail monopoly (Case C-170/04, Rosengren). As a consequence, Sweden was found to be in breach of the rules on the free movement of goods under the EC Treaty. The preliminary ruling in Rosengren corresponds in full with the view advanced by the EFTA Surveillance Authority.

The delivery of a reasoned opinion is the final step in the infringement proceedings carried out by the EFTA Surveillance Authority. Norway has three months to bring its legislation into compliance with the reasoned opinion. If it fails to do so, the EFTA Surveillance Authority may bring the case before the EFTA Court.

I feel quite confident that some people will be very busy during the next three months creating new obstacles. Watch this space!

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