The European Union allows a person over 21 years of age to transport 10 liters of spirits, 20 liters of fortified wines, 90 liters of table wines and 110 liters of beer each time he or she travels between two countries in the EU.

For Finland, this is a specific concern, because

  • Finnish people drink a lot of alcohol. (On average, seven percent of household consumption is on alcohol.)
  • Due to national health concerns, Finland taxes alcohol heavily. (Some 60 percent of the cost of beer is taxes and the Finnish government gains over a billion euros in revenue yearly from taxing alcoholic beverages.)
  • For some time, Finns have been crossing the Gulf of Finland, traveling the 80 kilometers between Helsinki and Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, to buy cheap booze and beer. (Beer is three times cheaper in Estonia. Polls in Finland have shown that up to 1.3 million Finns regularly bring back alcohol from abroad.)
  • So far, the import quotas for persons returning from Estonia have been 16 liters of beer, 2 liters of wine, 2 liters of fortified wine and just one liter of spirits.
  • In 2004, Estonia will join the European Union. A consequence of this is that the import quotas and, consequently, imports, will increase significantly.

Bus companies are, understandably, worried about this, since if many travellers come back with up to a hundred liters of beer, the buses will run out of space. A travel agent interviewed by a Finnish newspaper said he thinks it will be best if the buses are equipped with trailers, or if the beer is transported separately by trucks.

So, in the future, buses coming back from Estonia may be followed by trucks full of beer. That's Finland for you.

Also, the alcohol company Altia plans selling Koskenkorva vodka in easy-to-carry packs, similar to twelve-packs of beer, specifically for Finns importing it from Estonia.

Update: Finland's alcohol taxes were lowered in March 2004 to reduce the impact of Estonia's entry to the EU. Estonia's Finance Ministry, reciprocally, plans to raise the tax on hard liquor by 20 percent in 2005.

Panimoliitto (The Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry)
Helsingin Sanomat - Estonian Coffers Bulge from Booze-Cruising Finns

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