Euro-court throws out Swedish booze ban

Sweden's ban on the private importation of alcohol breaches European law, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

Euro-court throws out Swedish booze ban
Photo: Andre Lubbe

The Swedish government had been taken to court by the European Commission, which claimed that the Swedish ban limited free trade.

People are currently allowed to bring in unlimited amounts of alcohol for personal use if they transport it across the border themselves. Sweden had until recently banned the import of alcohol bought over the internet or by mail order.

This is the second time this year that the Swedish government has lost a case on alcohol imports in the European Court.

In June the European Court dismissed arguments that the ban was needed to limit alcohol consumption and protect young people from the effects of drinking. In the so-called Rosengren case, the court was giving its opinion after a request from the Swedish supreme court. Thursday’s judgment employs the same arguments as the previous case.

Anitra Steen, CEO of the Systembolaget state alcohol retail monopoly said she was unworried by the ruling.

“Internet trade is so small that it is not even visible in the statistics,” she said.

Systembolaget had broken sales records for beer and wine both this year and last year, she said.

“I see no current threat to Systembolaget, but a retail monopoly must always defend its legitimacy,” Steen added.

Systembolaget sells 54 percent of alcohol consumed in Sweden. Alcohol bought over the internet accounts for less than one percent.