Sweden welcomes the easing of restrictions on alcohol sales

Stockholm – The Swedish government said yesterday it wants to allow breweries, distilleries and winemakers to sell alcoholic drinks directly to customers who visit their operations, relaxing the country’s strict alcohol monopoly.

Apart from bars and restaurants, Swedes can only purchase drinks with an alcohol content of more than 3.5 percent from state-run outlets called Systembolaget, and from some authorized retailers in rural areas.

“This is a freedom reform. Sweden will become a little more like the rest of Europe, where it is self-evident that you can both visit and shop,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said at a press conference.

He said the reform targeted small-scale and artisanal activities, estimating that around 600 small-scale businesses would be affected.

The government emphasized that it still wanted to protect the Swedish alcohol monopoly.

Sales would be limited to occasions where visitors had paid for a tour or lecture.

Visitors are also only allowed to purchase 0.7 liters of spirits and three liters of wine and beer.

Swedish politicians have on several occasions explored the possibility of allowing the so-called farm sales of alcoholic beverages, but this has never been realized.

Critics have argued that this threatens Sweden’s model of a distribution monopoly designed to limit consumption.

A 2021 study also found that such sales could breach EU regulations by giving Swedish companies a sales location that is not available to competitors outside Sweden.

Social Affairs Minister Jakob Forssmed told reporters that the government believed that since sales would only be allowed as part of a tour or lecture, they would not pose a threat to the monopoly.

“It is also our assessment that this proposal remains compatible with EU law,” he said.

The government said the proposal would be formally presented in the summer and sent to the European Commission for assessment, with the hope that it would be implemented in the first half of 2025. -Nampa/AFP