Brussels, 7 February 2023 – Yesterday, Ireland notified to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) its Draft Regulations Under Section 12 of Ireland’s Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 laying down rules for the labelling of alcoholic beverages, including the use of health warnings. It notified an unchanged draft despite strong opposition, because incompatible with European Union law, of a high number of EU Member States, and thanks to the inaction of the European Commission. The WTO procedure would be the last procedural step before Ireland can adopt the legislations.
“Ireland has decided not to change a single comma of the Draft notified to WTO despite the fact that no less than 13 Member States – Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain – issued critical comments on the Irish Bill during the EU process of consultation under the TBT procedure. One could wonder what is the point of the TRIS consultation procedure!” said Ignacio Sánchez Recarte, Secretary General of CEEV.
The Irish Draft regulations are clearly incompatible with EU law and even the Irish authorities recognized it, with humour, during an event on cancer organized by the Swedish Presidency on 1st February.
“We recently went through an EU assessment process because clearly what we were doing was in breach of the single market, in some way. […] We are very grateful and indeed somehow surprised that our proposal got through that EU assessment process successfully. Somehow surprised is an understatement.” explained the Irish representative.
Harmonised legislation and EU Single Market are two of the greatest EU achievements and key assets for EU companies and EU citizens. They are the cornerstone of the economic sustainability of EU wine companies, 99% of which are small and micro-companies unable to face different labelling schemes in every single Member State.
Stakeholders, EU Member States and Ireland itself understand that the Draft regulations put the EU Single Market at risk. All, except the European Commission.
One third of the EU Member States urged the Commission, through a common letter sent some days ago, to engage in deep discussions with the Irish authorities in order to avoid trade barriers and maintain uniformity and fluidity of the Single Market, while ensuring adequate information to consumers. But the Commission has demonstrated no willingness in this case to act in defence of the EU Treaties, the Single Market and its own EU legislation.
“Now it is time for international partners at WTO level to raise again their concerns with the Irish proposal. Will Ireland listen to them or will it remain deaf as it was to EU partners’ comments? I have strong doubts about any reaction. In the absence of action by the European Commission, little can be done. I guess only the European Union Court of Justice would be able to defend the EU at this stage.” said Ignacio Sánchez Recarte, Secretary General of CEEV.
NOTE TO EDITORS
- Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV – www.ceev.eu) represents the wine companies in the industry and trade in the European Union: still wines, aromatised wines, sparkling wines, liqueur wines and other vine products. It brings together 25 national organisations and its members produce and market the vast majority of quality European wines, with and without a geographical indication, and account for over 90% of European wine exports.
- Image 1: Health warning as proposed by the Irish Draft Regulations
- Swedish Presidency high-level conference on cancer jointly organised with the European Commission (https://swedish-presidency.consilium.europa.eu/en/events/conference-on-cancer-12/)