The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg said on Wednesday that the difference in taxes breaks EU law.
The European Commission is taking Sweden to court, arguing that the higher tax on wine is intended to benefit Sweden’s domestic beer producers at the cost of foreign wine producers.
The Swedish government claims that the tax difference is negligible and is not a decisive factor when consumers choose between beer and wine. It produced figures and price comparisons which it said proved its case.
But Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi, presenting his opinion to the court, that whichever method was used for comparison – volume, price or alcohol content – the wine categories that compete with beer are taxed significantly more than beer. He said that there was sufficient evidence to rule that the Swedish tax system discourages consumption of wine, which is mostly imported from other EU countries, in favour of beer, which is primarily produced in Sweden.
The European Court usually follows the Advocate General’s recommendations, although it can go against them. Sweden’s Public Health Minister Maria Larsson and Finance Minister Anders Borg declined to comment on the Advocate General’s opinion, saying they would wait for the court’s decision.