While EU legislators grind out harmonising legislation that’s often out of date by the time it reaches the statute books, other moves are constantly being made to erode barriers to the single market.
Topic: The single market
Who: Spain, Greece and Denmark
When: March and April 2001
The European Commission has been particularly active recently in initiating enforcement action in respect of marketing and selling controls it regards as contrary to the EU single market.
In Greece, legislation requires all non alcoholic drinks sold in Greece to be indelibly marked in Greek and English with a suggested retail price in drachmas.
The idea behind this is to protect Greek consumers from excessive price mark-ups, but the disbenefit this brings to EU exporters to Greece by way of the cost of special labelling and packaging is out of all proportion. Requiring retailers to display price lists, the European Commission says, would achieve the same object but involve considerably less expense. The Commission is taking Greece to the European Court of Justice ("ECJ") over the rule.
In Spain, regulators are imposing sanctions on advertisers of marketing cleaning agents containing bleach which are marketed perfectly lawfully in other EU states. The Spanish authorities say the products do not have the concentration of active chlorine which is required by Spanish regulations, but the Commission argues the problem can be fixed by showing the concentration clearly on the label and is referring Spain to the ECJ.
In Denmark, administrators forbid the marketing of foods enriched with vitamins unless a nutritional need for the enrichment has been documented in Denmark. The Commission argues there is no public health justification for such controls, which impose a barrier to trade within EU member states. Proceedings are to be brought before the ECJ, joining also France and the Netherlands, who have similar restrictions.
Why this matters:
The sisyphean task of ensuring the free movement of goods and services throughout the EU goes on. On the one hand there is the broad brush, high profile work of harmonising EU member state laws, grinding on at its leisurely pace, with draft directives normally taking years to work their way through the constitutional process. On the other there is the more prosaic but nevertheless crucial battle against existing regulations and laws which offend against the single market. The timescale for these piecemeal procedures is not much faster than the legislative process, but over the years much has been achieved to create a single market for advertisers and marketers. We trust the governments concerned with the offending pieces of legislation here will swiftly take action to repeal them and obviate the need for costly ECJ proceedings.