EU ministers are against strengthening border controls to clamp down on private citizens buying tobacco or alcohol from other member countries. In a meeting on Friday they rallied against amending the suggested new EU directive on excise duties. This is a small victory for Belgium.
Countries such as France, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Ireland, which have significantly increased their excise duties on alcoholic beverages or tobacco for public health reasons, do not appreciate that their residents buy these products in neighbouring countries.
They sought to toughen the provision (Article 32) which allows a private citizen to take home a certain quantity of tobacco (800 cigarettes per person) or alcohol (90 litres wine) for personal use.
However, countries such as Belgium, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Poland and Croatia are particularly opposed to increased measures to decrease the amount EU citizens can buy home from other EU countries.
Not because they would disapprove a public health measure, but for the sake of defending the single market and the free movement, they explained.