EC steps up infringement against Bulgaria for ordering retailers to sell local food

Written by on October 30, 2020 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on EC steps up infringement against Bulgaria for ordering retailers to sell local food

The European Commission said on October 30 that it was advancing the infringement proceedings against Bulgaria in relation to the Cabinet decree that required supermarket chains to sell produce and other foodstuffs made in their regions.

The government order, issued on April 13, was meant to reduce the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on food producers in the country by requiring retailers to offer distinct exposure and sale space for domestic food products, such as milk, fish, fresh meat and eggs, honey, fruits and vegetables.

The Commission opened the infringement process a month later and was now following up with a reasoned opinion, the second stage in the infringement proceedings.

The EC said that the order undermined the free movement of goods by creating “more advantageous and competitive marketing conditions for domestic food products, discriminating against similar imported products” and the freedom of establishment by “restricting the freedom of retailers to decide on their assortment, on the lay out of their sales surface, and to adapt their supply chain.”

Bulgaria’s Cabinet said at the time that the reason for its order was to reduce the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on food producers in the country, but the Commission argued that “due to the extraordinary circumstances due to the coronavirus sanitary situation and the weakening of EU economies, it is an imperative to preserve the free movement of goods and the freedom of establishment in the spirit of European solidarity.”

Bulgaria has two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission in its reasoned opinion. Should it fail to do so, the EC can refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

This was one of two reasoned opinions sent to Bulgaria as part of the October infringements package. In the other case, Bulgaria was one of four countries asked to to fully implement the EU rules on strengthening the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceedings.

The Commission said that it considered that the national transposition measures notified by Bulgaria constituted only a partial transposition of the 2016 directive on this topic and that some provisions of the directive were missing.

The infringements package also had four new proceedings opened against Bulgaria via letters of formal notice. These referred to incomplete transposition of EU rules on e-Invoicing in public procurement, incorrect implementation of EU rules on equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security, a reminder to submit the relevant required reports under various EU laws related to water, and a case involving package travel rights.

In that case, the Commission argued that Bulgaria’s national rules, which went into effect in August and obliged travellers to accept a voucher or a refund within 12 months after the cancellation of their travel packages, was in breach of EU’s package travel rules because the refund date was “far beyond the 14-day period” stipulated in the directive.

(Photo: Bartosz Wacawski/freeimages.com)

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