- Lauri Beekmann
Swedish Social Democrats take initiative to protect alcohol monopoly
14.04.2023 - The Swedish Social Democratic Party is taking action in Parliament to protect the Swedish alcohol monopoly. Legal experts have highlighted the risks that introducing farm sales could lead the European Union (EU) to consider Sweden as having abolished its alcohol monopoly, thereby opening the market to all European companies. The Social Democrats believe that a minimum requirement to proceed with the farm sales investigation proposal is for the government to notify the EU and request a preliminary ruling on whether the proposals are compatible with the current Swedish alcohol monopoly.
During the previous legislative period, a special investigator was tasked with examining the possibility of farm sales of alcoholic beverages, provided that the Systembolaget monopoly was secured. The investigation presented its proposals in December 2021, suggesting new opportunities for companies to sell alcohol directly to private individuals in Sweden. The beverages would then be self-produced and sold in connection with paid study visits to the site. The investigation assessed that these proposals could be introduced without threatening Systembolaget's legal exclusive right to otherwise sell alcohol to private individuals.
However, after the proposals were presented, influential stakeholders pointed out that the investigation's assessment did not hold up. For example, the European wine industry's trade association, Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins, stated in its consultation response that it believes the proposal violates EU treaties and that it is willing to pursue legal action against Sweden if the proposals are implemented. Consequently, the Ministry of Social Affairs conducted an internal legal investigation, whose collective assessment was that the investigation's proposals "do not meet the investigation's directive to ensure the monopoly is secured."
The Social Democrats, therefore, believe that a minimum requirement to proceed with the farm sales investigation proposal is for the government to notify the EU and request a preliminary ruling on the compatibility of the farm sales investigation proposals with the Swedish alcohol monopoly. The Social Democrats will soon take action in Parliament's Committee on Social Affairs to obtain such a preliminary ruling.
"The Swedish alcohol monopoly must be protected. The introduction of farm sales must not mean that profit-driven interests take over the sale of alcohol in Sweden through the back door. Therefore, we demand clarification from the EU before other decisions are taken," says Lena Hallengren, the Social Democrats' group leader in Parliament.
"Our requirement is that Sweden notifies the EU and requests a preliminary ruling regarding whether the farm sales investigation proposal is compatible with the Swedish alcohol monopoly. This is the only way to be confident that we are not risking the monopoly," says Fredrik Lundh Sammeli (S), the Committee on Social Affairs group leader.
Source: The Swedish Social Democrats