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What is the Cassis-de-Dijon Principle?

La Créme de Cassis de Dijon is a sweet liqueur of French origin, the sale of which was banned in Germany at the end of the 70s.

The importer - the German group from Köln Rewe-Zentrale AG - intended to offer this product among the alcoholic beverages in its supermarket chain. The German authorities prohibited the importation of this product, because the alcoholic content of the Crème de Cassis was lower than that prescribed by German law - a minimum of 25% - while the Crème de Cassis contains 20% - to market it as a spirit drink.

Subsequently, the importer appealed the case, alleging that the prohibition of the German authorities went against article 28 of the Treaty of Rome. The Court held that since this liquor was being legally produced and sold in France, German law was placing a restriction on the free movement of goods to a State belonging to the EEC, precursor of the current EU.

Restrictions can be placed on the free movement of goods in the EU but these must be justified as opposed to the general interest. In fact, if the alcoholic content of a drink is less than what is allowed by national legislation, it cannot negatively affect the public interest.

Finally, on February 20th, 1979, the Court of Justice of the -then- European Communities ruled in favor of the Rewe group, issuing the following verdict:

"Every product legally manufactured and marketed in a Member State, in accordance with the regulations and loyal and traditional manufacturing procedures of this country, must be admitted to the market of any other Member State."

This sentence would go down to posterity as The Principle of Cassis-de-Dijon. Until July 1st, 2010, the year in which said principle entered into force in the Swiss Confederation, the Cassis-de-Dijon principle was reserved exclusively for members of the EU.

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