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Canada threatens Greek feta

05 September 2013 / 16:09:11  GRReporter
3254 reads

Greece may have won the legal battle to protect the name of "feta" cheese at European level but it seems that it will lose it at international level as there is the risk of disregarding the relevant decision of the European Court of Justice on the internal market of the European Union.

This conclusion is the result of yesterday's discussion which took place behind closed doors during the meeting of the European Commission. It was held in connection with the forthcoming negotiations between the European Union and Canada for an agreement to create a free trade zone.

One of the most serious problems with Canada is the protection of the designations of origin and the geographical indication of certain products, including various types of cheese such as Greek feta, Italian Gorgonzola blue cheese and French Munster. Canada produces these types of cheeses, mainly feta, and uses the names that are protected at European level. Moreover, it is warning that it is not intending to stop this.

A possible firmer position of the European Union and the insistence on protecting these products at international level, however, are faced with conflicting interests between the member states of the Union itself. For example, the industrialized north countries want to make concessions to Canada in terms of the names of the geographical area in order for them to receive concessions for the services and products in which they are interested.

Commissioner in charge of these matters, Belgian Karel De Gucht, who will head the European Union delegation during the negotiations with the USA and Canada, seems to support the position of those countries.

At yesterday's meeting, Commissioner Maria Damanaki of Greece defended the thesis that the European delegation should insist on an agreement which will allow the existing producers in Canada to continue to use the name used so far for the cheese they produce but which will prohibit the introduction of new products under these names. Maria Damanaki 's position was supported by Italian Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission, and French Commissioner Michel Barnier.

However, Karel de Gucht stressed the importance of reaching an agreement with Canada first and then subsequently stated that he was not willing to put other issues on the negotiating table, paying particular attention to Canada’s firm position on "feta".

Ultimately, the commissioners have reached a consensus which is not considered satisfactory for Greece. The delegation of the European Union will ask Canada to not allow its producers to state the name of "Greek feta" on the packaging of the cheese manufactured by them, permitting them to use only the word "feta".

It is obvious that this will pose a considerable problem because today, based on the decision of the European Court, no member state other than Greece can use the name of "feta"; all others can use the name "white cheese".

If the agreement with Canada is finalized, its producers will be able to export cheese under the name of "feta" in the European Union on the one hand and on the other this will become the most significant problem since some third countries, major producers of "feta" cheese such as Turkey, for example, could refer to the precedent of Canada and request such treatment in the contracts which they have signed with the European Union or will sign in the future. Moreover, such developments could provoke partners such as France, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands which produce "feta" cheese to try to circumvent the decision of the European Court.

Tags: FetaProtected trade namesEuropean CommissionCanada
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