Brussels, 6 July 2007
The European Commission has formally requested Hungary to amend its legislation on environmental charges applicable to beverage containers. The Commission believes that Hungary's system leads to de facto discrimination against products from other Member States. The request is in the form of a reasoned opinion which is the second stage of the infringement proceedings provided for in Article 226 of the Treaty. If Hungary fails to comply with the reasoned opinion within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Communities.
Hungary has introduced a system of taxes for beverage containers which differ according to whether or not the container is reusable, the contents of the container, and the rates of re-use achieved by economic operators.
This system sets targets for the re-use of containers which vary considerably from one beverage to another, resulting in very different levels of taxation and exemption requirements.
The Commission is in favour of environmental schemes and does not challenge the discretion Member States are allowed to promote systems for the re-use of these containers. However, a policy to promote the re-use of containers is allowed only if it is in conformity with the Treaty and does not discriminate against foreign products to the benefit of domestic products.
In the case in question, the Commission believes the criteria applied by Hungary are not objective (very different rates of tax depending on the contents), are discriminatory (widely differing tax rates geared towards re-use rather than recycling) and are biased against foreign products the containers of which are recycled because transporting them back to their place of origin for re-use would entail high additional costs. This discrimination constitutes a breach of Article 90 of the EC Treaty.
The reference number of this case is 2005/4209.