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PR(95)02: Surveillance Authority requests Iceland to abolish special charge on imported beer


The EFTA Surveillance Authority on 17 March 1995 issued a "reasoned opinion" to Iceland, requesting the abolishment of a special charge of 35 % on imported beer. If Iceland does not react in a satisfactory way to the reasoned opinion (the second step in formal infringement proceedings against an EFTA State) within the given time limit of one month, the Authority may bring the matter before the EFTA Court.

Article 10 of the EEA Agreement prohibits, between the Contracting Parties, customs duties on imports and exports, and charges of equivalent effect. This provision of the EEA Agreement is identical in substance to Articles 12 and 13 EC Treaty and has to be interpreted in the same way as the EC provisions. That means that the case law of the European Court of Justice also has to be taken into account.

In the light of the above the charge might only be acceptable if it were either a payment for a service rendered, or part of a general taxation system applied also to domestic products. That not being the case, the Authority has arrived at the conclusion that the levying by Iceland of the special charge on imported beer is contrary to the EEA Agreement.

The Icelandic Authorities had indicated their intention to abolish the charge before the end of the first half of 1995. However, the Authority does not find it justified to maintain the charge on imported beer any longer at all.

"Such protection of domestic industries is in clear violation of the EEA AgreemenC, says Pekka Saild, the Member of the College of the EFTA Surveillance Authority responsible for the free movement of goods. 1celand now has one month to make the necessary changes. If this is not done, we may decide to bring the case to the EFTA Court.,,

Already on 22 February 1995 the EFTA Surveillance Authority issued a reasoned opinion with regard to the Icelandic alcohol monopoly, giving Iceland six weeks to abolish exclusive rights with regard to import and wholesale of alcoholic beverages.

For further information please contact Eva Kettis (Goods Directorate) on tel. 2266950 or Klaus Pendl (Press and Information Officer) on tel. 22 66 882.


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