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Commission approves €75.5 million Estonian schemes in the form of direct grants and payment advantages to support companies in #Coronavirus outbreak



The European Commission has approved eight Estonian state aid schemes in the form of direct grants and payment advantages to provide liquidity to companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The schemes were approved under the state aid Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 19 March 2020, as amended on 3 April 2020. 

Under the schemes, public support will be provided as follows: (i) €10 million in the form of direct grants to support small companies that seek to transform their products, services, processes and business model in order to support their viability; (ii) €14m in the form of direct grants to companies that invest in development projects; (iii) €5m in the form of direct grants to companies in the tourism sector that seek to restructure their activities, to develop new products and/or services, or to change their business model; (iv) €25m in the form of direct grants to companies in the tourism sector; (v) €20m in the form of direct grants to companies and organizations active in the culture and sports sectors affected by the coronavirus; (vi) €250,000 in the form of payment advantages to companies supplying products or services to the City of Tallinn; (vii) €250,000 in the form of a waiver of penalties to companies that failed to fulfil in due time orders from the City of Tallinn; and (viii) €1m in the form of reduced rent leases and usage fees to lessees of municipal property of the City of Tallinn.

The Commission found that the schemes are in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. The Commission therefore concluded that the measures are necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.

On this basis, the Commission approved the measures under EU state aid rules. Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The eight Estonian aid schemes will enable the provision of €75.5m in direct grants and payment advantages to companies affected by the pandemic. They will help to provide liquidity and support the viability of companies across different sectors in these difficult times.

"Our work with member states continues and ensures that national support measures can be put in place in a timely, coordinated and effective way, in line with EU rules.”

The full press release is available online


Excise duties: Commission welcomes agreement on rules governing alcohol



The Commission has welcomed the 30 July agreement reached in the Council on the new rules governing excise duties on alcohol within the EU. This agreement paves the way for a better business environment and reduced costs for small alcohol-producing businesses. The agreed new rules will ensure that small and artisan alcohol producers have access to a new EU-wide certification system confirming their access to lower excise duty rates across the Union.

This will have a positive impact on consumers, which will benefit from a crackdown on the illegal use of tax-free denatured alcohol to make counterfeit drinks. There will also be an increase in the threshold for lower strength beer to which reduced rates may apply to encourage brewers to produce beverages with a lower alcohol content.

Following the agreement, Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said: "Today's agreement is a welcome move towards a more modern and fairer tax regime for alcohol which also supports our fight against fraud.”

New rules will be applicable from 1 January 2022. The Commission will monitor the introduction of an excise duty or reduced excise rates for private production of ethyl alcohol and will report to the Council on this measure.

A full press release is available here

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#spiritsEurope launches interactive map of spirits with geographical indications (GIs)



A new interactive map geolocating all of Europe’s 240 GI spirits has been launched, showing the great diversity, rich cultural heritage, and economic importance of these products for communities all across Europe.

Launching the map, spiritsEUROPE Director General Ulrich Adam said: “The map shows where exactly in Europe the 240 different GI spirits are from. Products like Cognac, Irish Whiskey and Polish Vodka are among our most well-known, yet the list is so much longer! For the first time today, we are – quite literally – putting all of these GI spirits on the map. I invite you to explore this exciting new tool, and to discover more about the different regions and passionate people producing this extraordinarily wide range of quality spirits.”

European spirits with protections known as Geographical Indications (GIs) are both popular at home and hugely appreciated worldwide: domestic sales amounted to more than €10 billion in 2017, while GI spirits made up two thirds of total European spirits exports worth €12.5bn last year.  As such, the economic contribution of GI spirits to local communities is substantial, and never more so as Europe begins to re-open from lockdowns.

Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network (oriGIn) EU Representative Mathilde Chareyron said: “This is a great way to visualize the cultural, economic and social importance of Geographical Indications in the European Union. It will allow citizens to better understand the success of the EU’s GI policy and the key contribution that GIs make to local development. This is a valuable addition to the work of OriGIn in ensuring better protection and promotion of geographical indications.”

A study published by the European Commission in April of this year found that spirits with geographical indications sell for over two and a half times more than products without the protection, underlining the high quality and reputation that consumers attach to GI products.

Another important way in which spirits, and GI spirits in particular, contribute to local development is spirits tourism. From family-owned micro-distilleries to some of the world’s biggest and best-known brands, distilleries across Europe attract millions of visitors every year from across the globe. In 2019, two million people visited Scotch Whisky distilleries, almost two million tourists visited French distilleries, while Irish distilleries welcomed more than one million visitors.

Calling for support for Europe’s distillers, Ulrich Adam added: “Distillers across Europe can and will play their part in driving the European recovery after the devasting pandemic, but they need support. We need the European Commission to continue to champion the protection of GIs in trade discussions. With promotion and the right supports, distillers will once again drive exports and create jobs and growth in Europe”.

Spirits GIs Map

·        spiritsEUROPE proudly represents one of Europe’s most valuable agri-food export sectors and, with it, the interests of 31 associations of spirits producers as well as 10 leading multinational companies. More information can be found here.

·        oriGIn - The Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network - oriGIn - is a non-for-profit Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Geneva. Established in 2003, origin is today a truly global alliance of Geographical Indications (GIs) from a large variety of sectors, representing some 500 associations of producers and other GI-related institutions from 40 countries.

·        EU database of GIs registered in Europe: the e-ambrosia database

·        List and description of the spirit drinks categories.

·        Study on economic value of EU quality schemes, geographical indications (GIs) and traditional specialities guaranteed (TSGs) – April 2020. Available here.

·        More information on spirits tourism is available here.


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#spiritsEUROPE launches new responsible drinking campaign



spiritsEUROPE launches a new campaign to promote responsible drinking, given the concern over excessive alcohol consumption during the global lockdown.  

Reports of increases in alcohol sales since the beginning of confinement measures have caused alarm. While sales of alcohol in shops and supermarkets have increased, this is greatly offset by the closure of the hospitality sector and the effective collapse of the tourism and travel retail sectors. These changes following the lockdown have in fact resulted in substantial declines in the sales of spirits in Europe – currently estimated at around a 20% to 30% drop.

Notwithstanding these findings, spiritsEUROPE is determined to not be complacent: “Reports that some are drinking more means we must remain proactive in our promotion of responsible drinking. It’s important that we all do everything we can to protect our health at the moment and that includes ensuring that we drink responsibly and within the drinking guidelines,” said spiritsEUROPE Director General Ulrich Adam.

He added: “Today we’re launching a new strand of our efforts to encourage responsible drinking. While we are waiting for our favourite pubs, clubs and restaurants to re-open, we want to remind people that if they choose to enjoy a gin and tonic or their favourite cocktail at home, it’s important to keep within the responsible drinking guidelines.”

In the first part of the campaign, spiritsEUROPE is launching an interactive quiz which will test people’s “alcohol-awareness” and point them towards resources to brush up on their knowledge.

The campaign will be accompanied by a Europe-wide digital investment to promote the quiz and its messages. Translations of the quiz will also be provided free-of-charge to the national associations in spiritsEUROPE to increase the impact of the campaign.

“We understand people’s concern about drinking to excess at home during this period and that’s why we’re renewing our efforts to promote responsible drinking at the moment,” said Ulrich Adam.

spiritsEUROPE’s new campaign has been welcomed by MEPs Juan Ignació Zoido (EPP, Spain) and Irène Tolleret (Renew Europe, France), co-chairs of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Wines, Spirits and Quality Foodstuffs: “spiritsEUROPE, along with other sector associations, has long encouraged the responsible consumption of alcohol, and as chairs of the Intergroup on Wines, Spirits and Quality Foodstuffs at the European Parliament, we believe it is important to see this work intensify during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are proud to see common efforts and initiatives to promote responsible consumption of alcohol and reduce harmful drinking."

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