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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 June 2007, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Swedish booze import ban 'wrong'
Glass of wine
The row began when wine was ordered through a Danish website
Restrictions banning Swedes from importing alcohol from abroad are "unjustified" and may breach laws, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

EU judges made the comments after 11 Swedes complained that wine ordered from Spain was confiscated on arrival.

While the Swedish government allows people to bring alcohol in from EU countries themselves, they cannot have it imported on their behalf.

The policy is needed to protect public health, the government argues.

'Cannot be justified'

Sweden's state-run Systembolaget, which owns and manages all alcohol retailers in the country, introduced the law in 1994 after alcohol consumption had soared.

However its stance amounted to "a restriction on the free movement of goods", the court said.

"It is less a method of limiting alcohol consumption generally than a means of favouring Systembolaget as a channel for the distribution of alcoholic beverages," the ruling said.

It added that such bans "cannot be justified on grounds of protection of the life and health of humans".

Analysts believe the ruling could open greater freedoms in the movement of alcohol around the 27-nation European Union, and make ordering from sources such as the internet more popular.

'A blow'

While it is possible to import alcohol through Systembolaget, this incurs extra transport and administration fees.

Klas Rosengren, and 10 others, chose to circumvent the system, ordering the wine from Spain through a Danish website to get it more cheaply.

But when the wine arrived in Sweden it was confiscated, leading Mr Rosengren to begin legal action which progressed through the Swedish justice system and was referred to the European Court.

The Swedish government said that it would look in to the ruling.

Sweden's National Institute of Public Health described the decision as "a blow".


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