“EU needs a new alcohol strategy”

According to Estonian Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE), the EU needs a new alcohol strategy, and among other aspects, cross-border trade should be addressed and it should be considered whether the alcohol by volume of wine should be taken into consideration in taxation, as is the case with beer.

“There has been an alcohol strategy on the EU level, but it ended in 2013,” Ossinovski told BNS. “The European Commission hasn’t agreed with drawing up a new strategy, but all EU health ministers have addressed the topic after the strategy ended in 2013. The most vocal have been Ireland, Estonia and the Nordic countries.

The minister pointed out that it is often stressed that healthcare policy is the internal matter of a member state and every country should handle its own alcohol problems. “At the same time, if every member state would protect its health from harmful factors, they would more quickly reach the topics which have been regulated at the EU level as an agreement between all member states,” he continued.

According to Ossinovski, what must be printed on liquor bottles has been decided by EU member states together, for instance.

In excise duty policy, two directives must be taken into account, one of which states how alcoholic drinks have to be categorized and the other which determines minimum excise duty rates, the minister said.

“It has been discussed for years what forces a directive to take into account the alcohol by volume of beer in taxation but at the same time forbids doing so with the taxation of wine,” said the Estonian minister. “Such a practice is unequal, unfair and has resulted in a rise in the average alcohol by volume of wine on the European market. Although many countries don’t like the situation, it can only be changed on the EU level as an agreement between all states.”

The maximum amount of alcohol which can be taken across the border is also decided on the EU level, he noted. “Therefore the issue needs to be discussed on the EU level,” said Ossinovski. “The issue not only concerns Estonia, Finland and Latvia; increased amounts of alcohol have also been taken across the Sweden-Denmark and Denmark-Germany borders as well as the borders of Luxembourg and its neighbors.”

On Thursday, daily Eesti Päevaleht reported that Ossinovski wants the limit of goods transported across the border to be reduced in Europe as a result of alcohol bought in Latvia and taken to Estonia.

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