France had every right to increase its levy on strong beers: Europe does not consider it to be a protectionistic measure to benefit its own beers. The Belgian brewers, heavily hit because of the levy, will have to accept defeat.
58.6 million euro turnover lost
Belgian beer export to France dropped from 3.501 million to 3.225 million hectoliters last year because of the levy increase which started on 1 January 2013. Levy for pints have increased from 13.75 euro per hectoliter, an increase of more than 160 %. France intended to boost its social security with the money from the increased tax.
The Belgian brewers felt the measure was mostly a protectionistic move as wine levies were not increased. A glass of wine cost 4 euro in France before the levy increase, which is also what a pint cost, while specialty beers cost 6 euro. After the levy, wine still cost 4 euro, pints cost 5 euro and a specialty beer cost 7.5 euro.
According to the Belgian brewers, they will lose 58.6 million euro in turnover as the French market is still the most important foreign market for Belgian beer.
That is why the brewers filed a complaint with the European Commission: "The European Union has free movement of goods. It is unfathomable that a pint in France gets taxed ten times more than win, while specialty beers get taxed 16 to 17 times more. That is pure discrimination", former Federation of Belgian Brewers' CEO Sven Gatz said last year.
The Directorate-General of Taxation and Customs has now dismissed the complaint.