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Spirit drinks: agreement on revamped measures

Met dank overgenomen van Raad van de Europese Unie (Raad), gepubliceerd op maandag 10 december 2018.

Consumers will soon be able to benefit from clearer labelling of spirit drinks. At the same time, spirit drink producers will work on the basis of simpler and clearer production rules, as well as benefit from better protection of geographical indications (GIs).

EU member states meeting in the Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA) today confirmed an agreement reached on 27 November by the Austrian Presidency of the Council and European Parliament representatives on a regulation on the definition, description, presentation and labelling of spirit drinks, including their use in other foodstuffs and the protection of geographical indications.

This is a very good day for the spirit drinks sector. Thanks to these new rules the most prestigious EU products such as whisky, brandy and vodka will be better protected, and consumers will be better able to make informed choices, thanks to clearer and more uniform production and labelling rules across the EU.

Elisabeth Köstinger, Austrian Federal Minister for Sustainability and Tourism and President of the Council

The existing EU legal framework for spirit drinks was set up in 2008. Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Commission proposed in December 2016 to adapt the rules to reflect the newly introduced distinction in secondary legislation between delegated and implementing acts. It also took the opportunity to introduce new procedures for the protection of GIs of spirit drinks, modelled on the recently updated procedures for quality schemes for agricultural products.

The changes therefore bring the sector in line not only with the Lisbon Treaty, but also with developments in the management of geographical indications for foodstuffs and rules on wine set out in the Common Market Organisation regulation (CMO).

The final agreement between the EU institutions will:

  • affect production rules by harmonising the maximum level of sugar content tolerated at EU level to ensure consistent quality of the same product across the EU. This maximum EU level will nonetheless be compatible with stricter national rules
  • clarify presentation and labelling rules, which will be aligned to the regulation on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC regulation), while maintaining the specificities of spirit drinks
  • lay down clearer rules regarding allusions or references to spirit drinks, especially in food products made with those products
  • foresee better protection for GIs against trademarks by granting 7 additional years of protection compared to the WTO agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (the so called TRIPS agreement)
  • preserve more traditional production methods

Next steps

As the agreement has an important trade aspect, it will be submitted to WTO members for comments during a 60-day period.

The regulation will then be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading, and will subsequently come back to the Council for adoption.

The new regulation will enter into force 7 days after its publication on the Official Journal of the European Union (poss. Spring 2019) and its applicability would be delayed two years, except for certain provisions which would apply two weeks from its entry into force (mostly provisions on GIs).

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