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14.8.

2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 192 E/69

Answer given by Mr Bolkestein on behalf of the Commission

(21 November 2002)

The Commission remains concerned that the current VAT exemption for postal services gives rise to
significant distortion of competition and is therefore no longer appropriate. In line with its objective to
modernise the VAT system, it is considering making a proposal to rectify this situation. It is hoped that
such a proposal will be made early 2003.

(2003/C 192 E/068) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2626/02


by Klaus-Heiner Lehne (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(18 September 2002)

Subject: Customs classification of granules, containing sugar, for the manufacture of lemon tea drinks

For German suppliers, the Commission classifies lemon tea under Customs Tariff No 21069098 ‘Food
preparations containing more than 5 % sucrose’, and for Polish suppliers under CCT No 2101209092,
‘preparations with a basis of extracts, essences or concentrates of tea or mate’.

This classification means that Polish lemon tea can be imported free of customs duty from Poland. The
price of sugar in Poland, which is considerably lower than that in the EU, and the lack of a compensation
in the form of the customs duty which would be incurred by correct classification under CCT
No 21069098, results in Polish suppliers being able to supply a comparable lemon tea product at a
significantly lower price than firms producing the product in Germany.

The same distortions of competition arise between German and Slovenian drinks manufacturers, because
the latter’s competitive advantages are also not levelled out by customs duty. The parties who suffer as a
result of this classification are the German firms, who will eventually cease to be competitive, leading to
their closure and to higher unemployment in the EU.

1. How does it come about that a lemon tea drink comprising 90,1 % sugar and 2,5 % instant tea,
produced in Poland and imported into Germany, is classified under the customs-free CCT No 2101209092,
while tea produced in Germany comprising 95 % sugar and ca 1,2-1,8 % tea extract is classified under CCT
No 21069098, which does attract customs duty?

2. How can this action by the Commission be justified under Article 27(b) of the EC Treaty?

3. Will the Commission be improving the CCT classification of granulates for European firms in future,
thereby creating balanced conditions of competition, e.g. by amending the CCT and statistical
nomenclature?

Answer given by Mr Bolkestein on behalf of the Commission

(29 October 2002)

In order to eliminate divergences in the tariff classification of sweet preparations based on tea extract,
classified by some Member State customs authorities under heading 2101 20 92, by others under
2106 90 98, on 12 February 2001 the Commission adopted Commission Regulation (EC) No 306/2001 of
12 February 2001 concerning the classification of certain goods in the Combined Nomenclature (1) which
classifies a product known as ‘lemon tea’, in powdered form, comprising 90,1 % sugar, 2,5 % tea extract
and lemon flavouring under heading 2101 20 92. Under the EC-Poland and EC-Slovenia Agreements, this
heading qualifies for exemption from import duties.

As regards the two products mentioned by the Honourable Member, and on the basis of the information
provided, the Commission considers that the two products comprising 90,1 % sugar and 2,5 % tea extract
and 95 % sugar and 1,2 to 1,8 % tea extract, respectively, can be classified under heading 2101 20 92 on
the basis of the abovementioned Regulation.
C 192 E/70 Official Journal of the European Union EN 14.8.2003

In view of the above, the Commission considers that it has taken all appropriate measures to ensure the
uniform application in the Community of the Combined Nomenclature under the powers conferred upon
it by Council Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 of 23 July 1987 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and
on the Common Customs Tariff (2) and in the spirit of Article 27 of the EC Treaty.

The Commission reiterates that tariff classifications cannot be tailored to the economic interests of a sector,
as this could lead to distortions of competition. The classification of products is not determined by the
customs duties pertaining to different tariff headings, but by objective and verifiable criteria based on the
nature of the products themselves.

No change to the classification can be made without amending the legal texts of the Harmonised System
which is an international Convention and therefore cannot be amended unilaterally by the Commission.

(1) OJ L 44, 15.2.2001.


(2) OJ L 256, 7.9.1987.

(2003/C 192 E/069) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2636/02


by Graham Watson (ELDR) to the Commission

(18 September 2002)

Subject: Persecution of Christian communities in Indonesia

Is the Commission aware that Christian communities in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia are being increasingly
persecuted and attacked by extremist Islamic militants of the Laskar jihad?

Is the Commission also aware that local police are targeting for arrest key Church leaders, such as Rev
Rinaldy Damanik, rather than the jihad militants?

What pressure will the Commission bring to stop these senseless attacks and how will the Commission
ensure local police neutrality?

Answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

(10 October 2002)

The Commission’s Delegation in Jakarta, together with the diplomatic missions of the Member States,
closely follows human rights developments throughout Indonesia and participates in all Union démarches
to draw attention to concerns regarding human rights issues in Indonesia. The Commission shares the
stated position of the Union, firmly supporting Indonesia’s territorial integrity, while encouraging the
Government to make urgent efforts to address and resolve peacefully Indonesia’s internal conflicts, whether
separatist or sectarian in character. Like the majority of the international community, the Commission
considers that these internal conflicts are primarily the responsibility of Indonesia, and should be addressed
first and foremost by the Indonesian Government, and by civil society organisations, the religious
communities and other institutions in peaceful dialogue, within the rule of law, and respecting human
rights without favour to any particular group.

The Government of Indonesia led by President Megawati is, the Commission believes, making a real effort
to balance the internal tensions and to encourage the settlement of disputes peacefully with respect for
human rights. Their brokering in December 2001 in Poso, Sulawesi of the Malino I peace declaration
between representatives of the Christian and Moslem communities and other rival groups in Sulawesi is
one example. And a similar Malino II declaration agreed in April 2002 concerning the Moluccas is
another. But these declarations of principle require implementation with sensitivity to the different
communities.