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Reader feedback: Strange suit

Re: Slovakia joins EU tobacco lawsuit , By Magdalena MacLeod, October 31 to November 6, 2005

It is strange that a suit of this nature can be initiated in a non-EU country to "remedy cigarette smuggling". Tobacconists in the small town of Adinkerke in Belgium sell 35 percent of all the cigarettes sold in that country.

This is good for some €700 million in excise duty (not counting VAT) flowing into Belgian state coffers. Adinkerke is easily accessible by British and French smokers. Belgium is hence importing and manufacturing many more cigarettes than are smoked here.

In other words, Belgium is doing more or less the same as those tobacco companies [that are being sued], but technically cannot be sued for it. And I could imagine that many an Austrian smoker may regularly hop over to Slovakia to stock up on fags.

Legally these steps may be correct, but from an ethical point of view, one could get the impression that the EU is merely looking for tills it can put its hands in.

In relation to import allowances, Britain allows 3,200 cigarettes (16 cartons) and Holland allows the same quantity per individual, but argues that if there is more than one brand taken, the "consignment" is a commercial shipment, and VAT must be charged.

France now wants to restrict cigarette imports to 10 packets of 20 only.

And never mind what is stipulated regarding cigarettes taken from Slovakia into Austria, the border guard checks your boot only to see if there is a Moldovian or other non-EU citizen hidden in there.

Oscar,
Radošovce, Slovakia

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