French give up on surcharge

Bowing to pressure from the European Union Commission, the French Finance Ministry said Wednesday it has scrapped a special tax on strong beer. The French had suspended the tax in February.

The French government introduced the tax of 2 euros ($2.19) per liter (2.1 pints) of beer with an alcohol content of 8.5% or more in its 2003 budget, saying it would help protect public health. The European Commission, however, had backed a Belgian complaint that the tax discriminated against its exports, since most of the specialty beers affected came from Belgium.

The dispute over the beer tax had made headlines in Belgium, a country where strong beers form a crucial part of culinary culture and are an important export.

Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders met his French counterpart Francis Mer in Paris in February to make the case for a repeal of the tax.