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Alcohol high on the agenda of the Finnish EU Presidency

Finnish Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen, expressed his wish to reach an agreement with the other EU Member States to raise the EU minimum tax on spirits and beer during the Finnish presidency of the EU, starting 1 July.

Consumption of alcohol in Finland has increased by an average 33 percent since March 2004 when they cut tax on alcohol. The Finnish Government expects to reverse this tendency by raising their domestic alcohol tax but they fear that without agreement on this issue at EU level, an increase in taxation in Finland would lead to a growth in private imports.

The Finns will push for a raised EU minimum tax on spirits and beers but will not even attempt to raise taxes on wine. In an interview with the Finnish News Agency the Finnish Minister of Finance, Eero Heinäluoma, noted that “wine is such a sensitive issue, and wine is not a problem for us. The problem is the extensive private import of liquor and beer”.

Although according to Mr. Heinäluoma the other Nordic countries will back the proposal, the truth is that any plans to increase minimum duties will most likely face a stern opposition from the other EU countries.

Almost all the wine-producing States in the EU have zero duty on wine, apart from France, which imposes a low rate and would be hard to convince them that an increase is needed.

The Finnish Presidency has also announced its intention to share with the rest of Europe its idea of restricting the advertising of “alcoholic substances appealing to children and young people” together with health warnings on alcohol products that would be similar to those found on tobacco packaging, and would highlight the health risks involved in consuming alcohol.

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