Setting packaging free: Commission welcomes Council agreement to
simplify EU legislation
Brussels, 25th September 2006
Setting packaging free: Commission welcomes Council agreement to simplify EU legislation
The Competitiveness Council has today reached political agreement to simplify legislation in the
area of packaged goods. The agreement, if confirmed by the European Parliament, will mean
free sizes for pre-packed products except for wines and spirits, for which the current existing
fixed sizes have been streamlined. This would mean the replacement of 25 different national
rules and two EU directives on nominal quantities by one single EU directive. This is another
step to deliver on the Commission's work programme to simplify EU legislation under the Better
Regulation initiative. The Commission has already withdrawn 68 pending proposals, introduced
impact assessments for all new and important proposals, tabled proposals to simplify EU laws
and has been working on a model to reduce administrative costs coming from EU legislation.
Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry
policy, said: “I am delighted that the Council has reached political agreement on a piece of
legislation which has become a symbol of the Better Regulation initiative. The process has
shown that simplification is often complicated, but with political will from member states
we can make important progress. This proposal is a small but necessary step to change
the image of the EU as an over-regulating busy-body. It sends a clear and positive signal
that the European Union is serious about cutting red tape."
The Council has reached a common position, on the amended proposal of the Commission
which ensures free sizes for pre-packed products. This compromise removes all
permanent derogations for pre-packed products except for wines and spirits. This is a
technical dossier but it is part of a major policy initiative to ensure that the European
Union regulatory environment is simple and of high quality. It guarantees a level playing
field and the widest consumer choice. Consumer protection remains fully assured by
labelling, unit pricing and rules on unfair practices.
The current directives originate from the 1970s when Member States created barriers to
trade based on pack sizes. It was agreed that certain sizes would be a "passport" to trade
within the EU. This is the origin of the 70 ranges of sizes per product group currently
contained in the directives. Next to these sizes Member States maintained their own sizes.
The jurisprudence of Cassis de Dijon took away the basis of limiting imports based on size.
The Cidre-Ruwet judgement in 1999 reconfirmed this when it forbade Member States to
make the range of EU sizes for cider the only ones allowed on its market and since then all
Member States have allowed imports that are legally marketed in a Member State to pass
the frontiers unhindered.