The war over wine labels in Europe is reopened. A year after the failure of the previous proposal, the European Committee of Wine Companies (Comité Vins – CEEV), an association to which the Spanish Wine Federation belongs, and the FEV itself have filed formal complaints with the European Commission this week.
Specifically, they are asking the EU executive to open an infringement procedure against Ireland for going against EU legislation and the single market with its rules on labelling alcoholic beverages, which include, among other things, the use of health warnings.
“The provisions included in the Irish labelling regulation are incompatible with current EU legislation and constitute an unjustified and disproportionate barrier to trade. This regulation will fragment the EU single market, affecting its proper functioning and making it de facto difficult for products from other Member States to enter Ireland, thus clearly discriminating against imported products”, said Mauricio González-Gordón, President of CEEV.
In this sense, he added that, “while we in the European winery sector fully support the fight against alcohol abuse, we firmly believe that this objective can be achieved with more effective and less trade restrictive measures which, moreover, should be compatible with current EU legislation”.
In the respective complaints, both the European wineries association and the FEV underline the clear incompatibility of the Irish labelling rules with the new labelling legislation for wine and aromatised wine products on issues relating to the indication of alcohol content and energy value. It also explains how the Irish rules are a disproportionate and unjustified barrier to trade contrary to Articles 34 and 36 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, thus jeopardising the EU single market, without Ireland having so far duly justified the proposed measure.
CEEV also underlines how the Irish rule jeopardises coherent action across the EU by adopting unilateral rules on issues, such as health warnings, on which the European Commission has already announced its intention to legislate.
Last but not least, CEEV explains how the Irish labelling provisions do not distinguish between alcohol abuse and moderate wine drinking patterns and therefore do not accurately inform consumers.
The incompatibility of the Irish rule with EU law has so far been pointed out by 13 EU Member States during the EU notification procedure, joined by 8 other non-EU countries during the equivalent WTO process.
“Following Ireland’s lack of reaction to the many concerns raised by national governments and with the inexplicable failure of the European Commission to act and defend the legislation and the single market, we have no other option but to lodge an official complaint with the EU to request that infringement proceedings be opened against Ireland”, said Ignacio Sánchez Recarte, Secretary General of the CEEV.
On behalf of the FEV, its director general, José Luis Benítez, stressed that “Spanish wineries are concerned to see how this project continues to advance and could generate additional barriers in this market and, worse and more alarmingly, set a very damaging precedent for the image and reputation of our sector in the short and medium term”. In this sense, he also asked the Spanish government to take advantage of the six months of the Spanish presidency to maintain and redouble pressure in coordination with our European partners so that the Commission rectifies and finally asks Ireland to modify its draft regulation to adapt it to EU legislation”.
Likewise,” Benítez continues, “at the FEV we are working with the Federation of Food and Drink Industries (FIAB) so that this organisation will also present a complaint to the Commission on behalf of the alcoholic beverage sectors, a complaint that is expected to be formalised this week”.