EU rules on duty-free air transit set up

BRUSSELS – New rules to end thousands of liters of duty-free alcohol and perfume being poured down the drain daily at European Union airports have been agreed to by EU transport officials, the European Commission said yesterday. The industry said millions of euros had been wasted because passengers with transit connections in the EU were forced to hand over bottles of vodka, whisky and other items to airport officials due to differing rules on aviation security. «The new rules have been agreed upon and are just awaiting the approval of the European Parliament, which will happen as soon as possible. This should come into force very quickly,» a spokesman for EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said. «We hope this will now help to solve the problems experienced by both industry and the traveling public.» Regulations requiring travelers to carry small containers of liquids or gels in sealed plastic bags that are no larger than one liter were agreed to by the 27-nation bloc, the USA, Canada, Norway and Switzerland last November. However, EU airport officials said passengers who bought liquids at duty-free shops outside these countries and made a European stopover before their final destination did not comply with those rules. For example, someone traveling from Tokyo to London via Frankfurt would be forced to hand over any duty-free liquids bought at the Japanese airport before boarding again in Germany. Under the new rules, EU countries will allow passengers to transit with goods bought at airports that comply with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – the UN agency for international air travel. ICAO set new regulations for tamper-evident bags and security for airport retail supply chains in March. Under the new accord, EU transport officials will also monitor and inspect airports to check whether they meet the ICAO standards. The European Travel Retail Council (ETRC), which represents Europe’s duty-free stores, said duty-free sales worldwide had fallen 40 percent since November. It described yesterday’s announcement as «big step forward.»

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