Government backing away from one of the most drastic alcohol sales promises
© DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

The Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union would appear to have completely backed away on one of its main electoral pledges.

As a reminder, the Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) programme featured the following statement: "We will reduce the accessibility of alcoholic beverages. To this end we intend to transfer alcohol sales to a state alcohol sales monopoly network."

The Ministry of Healthcare prepared its stance on this question at the request of the cabinet. Based on a document signed by Minister of Healthcare Aurelijus Veryga, the copy of which reached Delfi, such pursuits have either been completely abandoned or they are being moved to an undetermined future date.

"The Ministry of Healthcare believes that for establishing the specialised alcohol stores and granting licenses as per the prepared legal premises in a way that is justified, proportionate and does not breach legitimate expectations, it is necessary to review the influence of the aforementioned alcohol control and prevention means, part of which will be implemented from January 1, 2018 and only then prepare the necessary legislative projects," the text prepared a week ago states.

It also considers the very different foreign practices. For example in some countries the sale licenses are of limited duration, elsewhere there is no duration limit, in some places the number of licenses is limited, elsewhere it is not limited, but the price differs.

"In order to select suitable and effective alcohol accessibility reduction measures and apply market limitation measures used in other countries' markets, it is necessary to perform more in-depth analysis and continue discussions and public consultations.

We propose to consider the presented arguments and postpone the implementation of the request until a holistic evaluation of the passed alcohol control measures and other countries' experiences is completed," the text signed by A. Veryga states.

Many economists and trade specialists viewed the idea of alcohol sales in Lithuania being limited to specialised state stores like in, for example, Sweden with scepticism.

The arguments were that the Lithuanian state institutions lack real experience in organising and performing sales, obtaining or renting the necessary premises, coming to agreement with producers and retailers over goods supply and such.

When asked to comment on the text and the government's actual plans, the minister of healthcare's advisor Lina Bušinskaitė-Šriubėnė reconfirmed his position that the question of specialised alcohol retail stores in Lithuania and their legal regulation should be postponed.

She confirmed that such a proposal signed by minister A. Veryga was sent to the cabinet. Apparently currently this is not a priority question for the Ministry of Healthcare and there are, of course, other reasons why it should be postponed.

"Firstly both the current market situation must be objectively reviewed, as well as the measures already passed by Seimas intended to reduce alcohol consumption," the minister's advisor commented.

According to her, a part of the latter are already implemented and yielding positive results, such as this year's excise changes which have led to the sales of most alcoholic beverages decreasing.

Another set of measures are to be implemented next year, these are expected to also yield positive results because analogous measures are already in place in other countries, yielding positive results.

"As such we believe there is no need to rush new proposals while a detailed evaluation has not been made for currently implemented measures and the ones to begin next year. As mentioned, according to foreign experiences, such measures usually yield numerous positive results in reducing alcohol consumption.

Thus the Ministry of Healthcare, in submitting its arguments to the cabinet, is proposing to postpone this question until a holistic evaluation of currently implemented alcohol control measures and other countries' experience in completed," L. Bušinskaitė-Šriubėnė stated.

When asked what the cabinet's position over specialised alcohol stores is, the prime minister's advisor Tomas Beržinskas pointed out Saulius Skvernelis position was as follows: "Last year certain legislation over reducing alcohol accessibility was implemented. A part of them will come into power starting only next year. We stand by the position that first we need to find out what the impact is of the current legislation. Only then can we continue discussions on this question."

Delfi has so far been unable to receive comments from Farmer and Greens leader Ramūnas Karbauskis over the future of specialised alcohol stores.

The LVŽS group press representative Virginija Vervečkaitė informed that the group is awaiting a response from the Ministry of Healthcare, which was requested to express an opinion over specialised stores by mid next year. Apparently when the ministry's conclusions are provided, then the group will express its stance.

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