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2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 137 E/221

(2003/C 137 E/249) WRITTEN QUESTION P-3518/02

by Ursula Schleicher (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(3 December 2002)

Subject: Product labelling

The labelling of food and cosmetic products, for example, is becoming ever more detailed. Although such
detailed information is to some extent a response to consumer demand, it also creates problems in terms
of presentation. Consumers are increasingly complaining that the print on labels is too small and therefore
hardly legible or that the national language is not given prominence or does not even appear at all on
leaflets accompanying products.

What view does the Commission take of this problem?

Can the Commission provide a list of product groups which are covered by European labelling rules that
no longer allow independent national regulation?

Is it possible when transposing European labelling rules to stipulate the size of print at national level or to
require the national language to be given prominence?

Answer given by Mr Byrne on behalf of the Commission

(17 January 2003)

As a general principle, labelling should provide clear, accurate and understandable information in a
language easily understood by the consumer. In the words of Article 2(1) of Directive 2000/13/EC of the
Parliament and of the Council of 20 March 2000 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States
relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs (1), labelling must not ‘be such as could
mislead the purchaser to a material degree’. In addition, Article 13 of this Directive states that the
mandatory particulars shall be easy to understand and marked in a conspicuous place in such a way as to
be easily visible, clearly legible and indelible. This key requirement of consumer information on labels is
repeated in various forms in many pieces of Community legislation.

Legibility of labels and leaflets

From the principle set out above, the legibility of a label is crucial for ensuring consumers have full
information. Member States, in their transposition of labelling directives, have to give optimal ‘effet utile’ to
this principle in accordance with the EC Treaty taking due account of the principle of free movement of
goods, Article 28 EC Treaty. The prescription of character sizes and the promotion of the national
language remains possible, if and insofar, Member States do not erect technical barriers to trade which are
not in conformity with the EC Treaty.

With regard to the labelling of foodstuffs, the Commission has recently engaged in a comprehensive
evaluation of the current rules, with a view to identify if legislative changes, or other tools of enforcement,
are needed in order to meet demands from consumers, included for the presentation of the labels.

Choice of language

Concerning the choice of language displayed on a product label, Article 16(1) of Directive 2000/13/EC
requires that sales of foodstuffs is prohibited where labels, for certain particulars (or details), ‘do not appear
in a language easily understood by the consumer’. Paragraph 2 of the same provision makes it optional for
Member States, in accordance with the rules of the EC Treaty, to ‘stipulate that those labelling particulars
shall be given in one or more languages which it shall determine from among the official languages of the
Community.’ Article 7(2) of Directive 76/768/EEC as amended by Council Directive 93/35/EEC of
14 June 1993 relating to cosmetic products (2), allows Member States to require that certain particulars
‘be expressed at least in their national or official language or languages’ or ‘be expressed in a language
easily understood by the consumer’.
C 137 E/222 Official Journal of the European Union EN 12.6.2003

The Commission has set out its policy in its ‘Communication concerning language use in the information
of consumers in the Community’ of 10 November 1993 (3). In this Communication the Commission
presented the acquis communautaire to that date making statements on the use of language in respect of
the consumer. Community law varies considerably as to the degree it regulates the use of language and the
margin of appreciation for the Member States to establish national rules. Labelling rules are, in particular,
strict where a potentially dangerous product is placed on the market. For example, Articles 56 and 63 of
Directive 2001/83/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 6 November 2001 on the Community code
relating to medicinal products for human use (4) or Article 5 of Directive 2001/37/EC of the Parliament
and of the Council of 5 June 2001 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative
provisions of the Member States concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products (5)
contain such language provisions. Outside specialised fields that require a high degree of harmonisation,
the Commission in its Communication (3) COM(93) 456 final. ‘considers rules concerning languages
naturally fall within the competence of Member States’ (paragraph 2) and established some objectives to
encourage multilingual information for the consumer and to guarantee the freedom of the Member States
in language matters (paragraph 43).

Following the judgement of the Court of Justice in case C-369/89, the Commission has further published
an ‘Interpretative Commission Communication concerning the use of languages in the marketing of
foodstuffs in the light of the judgement in the Peeters case’ (6) where it expressed its belief that in the
labelling of foodstuffs sold to the ultimate consumer, the use of terms in a language other than the official
language(s) of the Member State where the product is marketed should, in practice, remain the exception
(paragraph 44).

(1) OJ L 109, 6.5.2000.

(2) OJ L 151, 23.6.1993.
(3) COM(93) 456 final.
(4) OJ L 311, 28.11.2001.
(5) OJ L 194, 18.7.2001.
(6) COM(93) 532 final.

(2003/C 137 E/250) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3529/02

by Bartho Pronk (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(10 December 2002)

Subject: Statutory regulation of holiday pay

In Belgium an employee who did not work in Belgium in 2001, for example, is not entitled to any paid
holidays in 2002. Consequently, a person who enters the labour market in Belgium on 1 January 2002 is
not entitled to any paid holidays that year. This applies not only to Belgian nationals but also to people
from other Member States wishing to exercise their right to free movement of workers within the
Community (Article 39 of the Treaty), with the difference, however, that it applies irrespective of their
employment record. This amounts to discrimination on the basis of nationality. The Commission itself has
drawn attention to this situation (1), but it is unclear what action it has taken as the regulations still apply
today. The relevant statutory provisions are the Royal Decree of 30 March 1967 establishing the general
arrangements for implementing the laws relating to workers’ annual holidays and the Royal Decree of
28 June 1971 adapting and coordinating the statutory provisions on workers’ annual holidays.

1. Is this provision in breach of European regulations and, more specifically, Article 39 of the Treaty
and Article 7 of the Working Time Directive (93/104/EC (2))?

2. What action has the Commission taken since noting this state of affairs (1) COM(2000) 787?

3. Can the Commission indicate what the position is in the EU with regard to transferring accrued
entitlements to holiday pay?

4. Does the Commission intend to bring forward proposals to improve coordination of the various
statutory provisions in the Member States?

(1) COM(2000) 787.

(2) OJ L 307, 13.12.1993, p. 18.