Sweden’s alcohol import ban ‘is legal’

The Swedish alcohol retail monopoly does not contravene EU regulations, according to a recommendation from the advocate general for the European Court of Justice.

Advocate general Paolo Regozzi has proposed that the ECJ uphold Swedish law in the Rosengren Case.

The case concerns a Swedish citizen who ordered wines from Spain for resale, having purchased the products in the country of origin as well as from a Danish website.

Klas Rosengren circumvented the Swedish Alcohol Act by bringing alcohol into the country without a licence. The Act only allows permits one reseller, retail monopoly Systembolaget, to supply alcoholic drinks.

Both Klas Rosengren and the EU Commission are of the opinion the monopoly acts as an obstacle to the free movement of goods and services on the EU’s common market.

But the advocate general sees the case as a test of Article 31 of EU Law, which prohibits discrimination of foreign producers.

“Within the framework of such a system as that prescribed in the Alcohol Act, the ban on the import of alcoholic drinks is in principle compatible with Article 31.1,” Regozzi wrote in his proposal.

Both the previous and current Swedish governments have worked to protect the Systembolaget’s resale monopoly. Ten years ago the ECJ gave the monopoly the green light in the much publicised Franzén Case.

In March of this year the ECJ all but approved the import ban, although it did require that Systembolaget not deny assistance to any individuals wanting to import alcohol to Sweden. Sweden agreed to comply with this demand and is now expected to win the case.