TALLINN - More than 40 companies that are obligated to discard their excess sugar stocks as part of the European Commission's penalization of Estonia have failed to do so, reports released last week said.
The Ministry of Agriculture has reportedly sued 29 companies over excessive sugar stocks 's including well-known food producers and wholesalers such as Osel Foods, Linda Nektar, Maag and Haljas. Elimination of stocks will start only after the court has issued a ruling.
But companies said they have contested the ministry's decision on excessive stocks and won't take any action until a final court ruling has been issued.
"As far as we know, no company has started to eliminate the stocks deemed as excessive, but there has been interest to learn about the methods of elimination," Liis Plakk, spokesperson for the Tax and Customs Board, was quoted by the Eesti Paevaleht daily.
By law, the excess sugar, accumulated in the run-up to EU accession in May 2004, can be eliminated by reprocessing it into feed for bees, flammable material or exporting it to non-EU countries. All stocks found to be excessive must be removed from the market by Nov. 30.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit that Estonia is about to file with the European Court of Justice against the EC's sugar penalty highlights what in the country's opinion is discrimination against new EU members. "In the previous rounds of enlargement only stocks that exceeded 3,000 kilograms in each separate case were counted as excessive stocks," Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said at a government news conference.
The government also intends to prove that the EC violated the principle of common responsibility when the size of sugar stocks deemed as excessive was determined by Agriculture Commissioner Marianne Fischer Boel alone, rather than being issued as a common decision by the commission.