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PR(07)24: The EFTA Surveillance Authority opens infringement procedure against Norway over discriminatory taxation of imported beverage packaging

13.6.2007

The EFTA Surveillance Authority today decided to open an infringement procedure against Norway regarding the discriminatory taxation of imported non-refillable beverage packaging.

The Norwegian system for taxation of beverage packaging consists of two elements: First, a general environmental tax applicable to all beverage packaging, and secondly, a so-called base tax imposed on non-refillable beverage packaging only. Non-refillable packaging means packaging which cannot be reused in its original form. Hence cans, drink cartons and non-refillable plastic bottles which are not reusable in their original form are subject to base tax, whereas refillable beverage packaging, i.e. glass and plastic bottles registered in a reuse system, are not.

The base tax was introduced in 1994 for environmental reasons, more specifically in order to reduce littering caused by non-refillable beverage packaging. At the time, non-refillable beverage packaging was not part of any return system for beverage packaging in place in Norway. With the establishment of Norsk Resirk in 1999, a return system for non-refillable beverage packaging was introduced. Consequently, both refillable and non-refillable beverage packaging units are now returnable in Norway.

In its letter of formal notice sent to Norway today, the Authority concludes that the levying of the base tax on non-refillable beverage packaging in Norway constitutes discriminatory internal taxation as imported beverages are de facto taxed more heavily than similar or competing domestic products, and thus, protection is afforded to domestic production of soft drinks and water. It follows from the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Communities that a pursuit of an environmental objective does not relieve a State from its duty to observe the rule of non-discrimination laid down in Article 90 of the EC Treaty. Identical rules are laid down in Article 14 of the EEA Agreement as regards the EEA EFTA States.

Norway has been invited to submit its observations on the content of the letter of formal notice within three months. After the time limit has expired, the Authority will proceed to consider, in the light of any observations received from the Norwegian Government, whether to deliver a reasoned opinion in accordance with Article 31 of the Agreement between the EFTA States on the Establishment of a Surveillance Authority and a Court of Justice.

For further information, please contact:

Mr Hallgrímur Ásgeirsson
Director, Internal Market Affairs Directorate
Tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 60

Ms Tuula Nieminen
Deputy Director, Internal Market Affairs Directorate
Tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 67

13 June 2007




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