The CIAA (Confederation of the food and drink industries of the EU) has added its voice to the debate over Germany's packaging deposit laws. The body has strongly backed the decision of the Commission to open a legal infringement procedure against Germany on its packaging deposit system, and the country is now under great pressure to bow to Brussels. As reported this week on FoodProductionDaily.com, the Commission believes that the new rules might constitute a disproportionate barrier to imported drinks.
The debate has divided opinion in Europe, and is becoming seen as a test of the EC's ability to bring Member States into line in terms of accepting EU-wide legislation. Germany, a founding member of the EU and one of the most influential players in European politics, is acknowledged as one of the leading advocates of introducing environmental-friendly policies.
However, the EU food and drink industry has expressed on many occasions its growing concerns over the current economic and social developments in Germany since the introduction of the mandatory deposit system on non-refillable containers for beer, carbonated soft drinks and water in January 2003. The CIAA claims that this has led to severe indirect discrimination against importing companies that have to bear higher costs than local companies in order to use and transport refillable packaging over longer distances.
The scheme has also led German retailers to remove non-refillable drink containers from their shops because of the absence of an effective return system. Imports of carbonated soft drinks, water and beer have therefore significantly decreased and the choice of German consumers is consequently limited.
Germany now has two months to respond to the Commission's formal request for further information on the functioning of its deposit system to show its compatibility with EU law and the absence of damage for EU beverage manufacturers. Confronted with the urgent nature and dramatic implications for the internal market and employment without any proven environmental benefit of this deposit scheme, the CIAA has urged the Commission to temporarily suspend this national measure until its compatibility with EU law is proven.
The issue is of vital importance. It not only goes to the heart of the conflct between European and Member State interests - it also affects one of Europe's largest industries. The food and drink business is the first largest industrial sector in Europe with a production value of over €600 billion, up to 3 million of employees and 27 000 enterprises, mainly SMEs. The food and drink industry uses and transforms about 70 per cent of the Community agriculture produce. With € 45 billion of exports, it is the second largest exporter of processed foodstuffs.
The CIAA is the voice of the European food and drink industries to the EU and International institutions to contribute to the development of a European and international regulatory and economic environment combining industry competitiveness, food safety and quality, consumer protection and respect for the environment.