Summary of Cassis Dijon – C-120/78

by José Ricardo Sousa, student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho

Keywords: Common Market; Spirit Drinks, Importation, Minimum Content, Cassis Dijon

Court: CJEU| Date:  Feb. 20th 1979 | Case: C-120/78 | Applicants: Rewe-Zentral AG vs Bundesmonopolverwaltung Für Branntwein

Summary:  Rene-Zentral is a central cooperative undertaking that imports good from other Member States. On 14th September 1976 the company requested authorization for Bundesmonopolverwaltung (Federal Monopoly Administration for Spirits) to import a spirit drink called “Cassis Dijon”. Administration told to Rene-Zentral that there was no need to ask for authorization to import goods, however “Cassis Dijon” couldn’t be sold in Germany because the spirit drink didn’t fulfil the requirements of alcohol (wine-spirits must be around 32% and the mentioned mark had around 20%). Rene claimed that the German provision represented a restriction for the free movement of goods and contrary to article 30 and 37 of the EEC Treaty. Rene brought an action against the decision and the Court suspended the action and referred the following questions to CJEU:

1. Must the concept of measures having an effect equivalent to quantitative restrictions on imports contained in Article 30 of the EEC Treaty be understood as meaning that the fixing of a minimum wine-spirit content for potable spirits laid down in the German Branntweinmonopolgesetz, the result of which is that traditional products of other Member States whose wine-spirit content is below the fixed limit cannot be put into circulation in the Federal Republic of Germany, also comes within this concept?

CJEU alerted the court that there was not any European act that regulated this matter, so it’s the state’s competence to find the proper legislation on production or commercialization of these goods. The disparities between state’s legislations must be accepted for satisfaction of multiple requirements (protection of public health, fairness of commercial transactions, etc).  German government claimed that this minimum alcohol content aims to protect consumers from goods with lack of quality. However, CJEU concluded that this argument is contrary to the provisions in article 30 of the EEC Treaty and there’s any proof that the quality of this goods decrease.

2. May the fixing of such a minimum wine-spirit content come within the concept of “discrimination regarding the conditions under which goods are procured and marketed … between nationals of Member States” contained in Article 37 of the EEC Treaty?

CJEU stated that article 37 is related to national monopolies for commercial nature, so article 37 wasn’t linked with the case.

The decision can be acessed here and the opinion of AG here.

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