Select Committee on European Communities Seventeenth Report


2.  PROPOSED REGULATION LAYING DOWN SPECIAL PROVISIONS RELATING TO QUALITY WINES PRODUCED IN SPECIFIED REGIONS (6356/98)

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Lord Donoughue, Minister for Farming and the Food Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

  Thank you for your letters dated 30 June and 13 July[2] on the above proposals which were considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting on 23 July.

  In your correspondence you provided clarification of the wider implications of the proposal for industries other than wine production and the outcome of the Government's consultation. The Committee supports the Government's negotiating position as set out in your letter of 13 July. We also note that the Commission's proposals on reform of the Community wine regime are expected imminently.

  We would appreciate being kept informed of further progress on this proposal. In the meantime, this letter maintains the scrutiny reserve.

28 July 1998

Letter from Lord Donoughue, Minister for Farming and the Food Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  In my letter of 13 July 1998, I reported to you further developments on this proposal.

  On 21 October, the European Court of Justice heard a related case brought by Belgium against Spain in which Belgium alleges that Spain has contravened the Treaty of Rome by permitting compulsory bottling of quality wine in the region of production. The Advocate General is now considering his Reasoned Opinion on the case. It could be some time before this is published, probably during the first half of 1999.

  In view of this, we understand that the Austrian Presidency do not intend to take this proposal forward. There is, however, no indication at this stage how Germany may handle this proposal under their Presidency which starts on 1 January 1999.

  I will let you know as soon as there are any further material developments.

7 December 1998

Letter from Lord Donoughue, Minister for Farming and the Food Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  On 7 December 1998, I notified your Committee that consideration of this proposal by the Council was being delayed because of an ECJ case (C-388/95) brought by Belgium against Spain. In this case, Belgium alleged that Spain contravened the Treaty of Rome by permitting compulsory bottling of quality wine in the region of production. The UK supported Belgium in this Case.

  On 25 March 1999, the Advocate General (AG) delivered his opinion (the AGO) in the Case. After considering in detail the arguments before the Court, the AG concluded in favour of Spain (and by extension the Commission, who supported Spain). One of the telling arguments adduced by the AG was the fact that the Community has no harmonisation of practices nor an agreed means of controlling bottling away from the region of production. Consequently, the quality of wine can change during transport/bottling and therefore a producer Member State has the right, in the AG's view, to insist that a quality wine must be bottled in the region of production. There are other arguments which found favour with the AG such as the accrued property rights of a quality wine produced in a specified region and the need to protect these.

  It remains to be seen to what extent the Court will concur with the AGO. Although the Court is not bound by it, the AGO is usually very influential. The final Judgment of the Court is likely to be several months away.

  In the meantime, discussion on the Commission proposal on compulsory bottling of quality wine (which has now been with the Council for over a year) still appears unlikely before the outcome of the above Case.

  I will let you know as soon as there are any further material developments. In the light of the final Judgment, it may be appropriate for the Government to submit a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum.

6 May 1999


2   Printed in Correspondence with Ministers, 4th Report, Session 1998-99, pp 39 and 40. Back


 
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