Internal EU Law (Pre Brexit)


Free movement of Goods: Protection of the health and life of humans, animals and plants. p410

42/82 Commission v France (Italian Table Wine) 1983 ECR 1013 .

Intro: Commission Regulation 1153/75 requires all commercial movement of wine within the EEC to be accompanied by a ‘wine passport’ (form VA 1). Wine imported from one member-State into another may, therefore, lawfully be checked at the frontier to ensure that it is in fact accompanied by a VA 1 form, properly completed and issued by the authorities of the exporting member-State. The import of wine may lawfully be the subject of health inspections under Article 36EEC. In the absence of any reasonable suspicion on the basis of specific evidence in a given case, such inspections, if they take the form of analysis, should however be spot checks and not systematically applied to all or most of the total imports from a particular member-State.

Case:  Between April 1980 and July 1981 the French authorities directed a number of communications to the Italian authorities with regard to certain irregularities or infringements which they had discovered in respect of transports of Italian wine. Thus there were two cases in which wine arrived in France in the tanks of ships in a polluted condition, in the one case through hydrocarbons and in the other case through paraffin. In the former case the pollution was caused by the fact that conversion work on a former oil tanker had not been carried out properly. In the latter case an Italian company was suspected of having transported in road tankers alternately wine and additives for lubricating motor vehicles. Furthermore, the communications in question related in particular to irregularities discovered in the VA 1 forms accompanying two consignments of wine and to a request for information on the steps taken in Italy with regard to the filtering of wine involving the use of asbestos. For more information, visit Notary public London

Legal Problem/Question: The question whether the Italian authorities reacted to those communications in an appropriate manner and within a reasonable time is the subject of dispute between the parties. By application lodged at the Court Registry on 4 February 1982, the Commission of the European Communities brought an action under Article 169 of the EEC Treaty for a declaration that the French Republic had failed to fulfil its obligations under the Community rules applicable to the wine sector and under Article 30 of the EEC Treaty. The French Government disagrees that the practices in dispute were intended to reduce the volume of imports and contends that their purpose was to ensure compliance with the Community rules in the wine sector and to protect consumers and the health and life of humans from fraudulent operations and prohibited and unhygienic practices

Decision:  The court found excessive delays in customs clearance of wine imported from Italy into France, pending analysis of the wine to ensure it complied with France quality standards. While I conceded that some analysis in the form of random checks, resulting in minor delays, might be justified, the measures taken by the French, which involved systematic checks greatly in excess of those made on domestically produced wine, were both discriminatory and disproportionate. The French Republic failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 30 of the EEC Treaty and under the Community regulations on wine. Court orders the defendant to pay the costs, including those of the party intervening and those arising from the application for the adoption of interim measures.

How this affected EU: