Swedish press calls for ECJ action against Sweden


RIP Brian
Feb 22, 2001

Major daily newspaper calls for an end to Swedish government's disrespect for EU Treaty

The sense of frustration is almost palpable in an open letter to European Union compliance chief Charlie McCreevy published this week by past and present Aftonbladet editors Anders Gerdin and Jan Helin. In the letter, the distinguished journalists call for enforcement of EU requirements on Sweden for free movement of trade and services between EU member nations involved in online gambling.

Aftonbladet is the biggest daily newspaper in the Nordic region and, along with other media, is being subjected to what appears to be unrelenting pressure to stop accepting advertising from EU competitors to the state gambling monopoly Svenske Spel. Aftonbladet is itself facing three cases, based on its belief that accepting competitive advertising from other EU nations is not punishable under EU Treaty-based legislation.

Swedish authorities are hewing slavishly to a 2004 Swedish High Administrative Court ruling that found Swedish protectionist laws to be compatible with EU law, a finding clearly at odds with the facts or subsequent developments. One of those developments is a June 2007 Reasoned Opinion from the EU compliance authorities that the Swedish government is in violation of EU law. However, with the two month window to redress this situation long past, little has been done to bring relief to companies suffering as a result of continued prosecution and pressure by Swedish officialdom.

The letter emphasises the need for "strong and decisive" measures by the European Commission to address the Swedish non-compliance and thus ensure that companies like Aftonbladet do not suffer the severe financial impact of having to turn away advertising by online gambling companies in other EU countries. Aftonbladet alone stands to lose up to SEK 80 million (Euro 8.5 million) a year in lost revenues if Swedish government activity forces it to reject outside advertisements.

Aftonbladet's balanced and competition friendly policies have made it a target for "constant and fierce" attacks by the Swedish Gaming Board, together with other Swedish and Danish media, the editors reveal. The letter also details inequities in the Swedish official approach to gambling advertising which favours state monopolies like Svenske Spel.

The editors conclude their appeal by urging the European Commission to "proceed as soon as possible" with its infringement procedure against the Swedish government in relation to sports betting and poker policies by initiating a European Court of Justice prosecution .

"It is high time to put an end to the Swedish government's lack of respect for the EU Treaty," the editors write.


Advertising prosecutions put on hold

Earlier this year the feisty editors of two leading Swedish newspapers - Aftonbladet and Expressen - went public with their concerns regarding law officials interfering in their right to carry advertising from online gambling companies, alledgedly in contravention of laws protecting government lottery monopolies.

In a joint impassioned public and criminal appeal against their convictions the editors outlined the problems and harrassment they had been experiencing and highlighted the incompatibility of Swedish laws with European Union trade pacts. Subsequently, the Swedish Court of Appeals was directed to examine the cases, and found that the Swedish lottery laws were possibly in contradiction with certain articles of the European Union pact.

The efforts of the editors paid off this week when Swedish media reported that the national Prosecution Authority has been made to halt prosecutions against Swedish media companies who accept advertising from Internet gambling services. The new court order was issued by UC Malm.

The next step for Aftonbladet is an appeal of the massive fines it was assessed for accepting the online ads. Those fines, some SEK 150 000 (around $25 000) per advertisement, could aggregate to many tens of millions of dollars. Aftonbladet also accepts significant advertising from Svenska Spel, the Swedish state-run gambling monopoly.

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