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Romania, Hungary push for brandy rights ahead of EU vote

Romania and Hungary are pushing the EU to make it easier for orchard farmers to distil their own fruit brandy, a traditional practice in Central and Eastern Europe that is restricted in the bloc on health grounds, news wire reported.

Backed by Hungary, Romania wants to lift the ban on home distilling and give countries the option to remove excise tax altogether for brandy produced for the fruit grower’s own use.

Hungary allowed tax-free home distilling in 2010 but was forced to backtrack by the EU’s top court, which ruled the changes illegalfour years later. Hungarians are known for "pálinka", a usually clear brandy made from apricots, plums, cherries, apples or pears. Fruit growers in both countries are currently allowed to produce more brandy for personal use, taxed at the lower rate, than in other EU countries, up to 50 liters a year per grower.

The proposal of Romania would allow countries to charge no tax rather than just lowering it. The personal use threshold would be raised to 100 liters in Romania and Hungary, and 50 liters elsewhere in the EU.

The proposal, which needs the backing of all EU states to be approved, is opposed by Germany, Italy, Sweden and Bulgaria, according to an EU document seen by Reuters.