Geographical indications are important, to protect and preserve intellectual property related to tradition, local cultures and production methods. But even though they grant protection to a community and not to individual right holders, they can cause tension, between two regions in the same country for example.
Whether or not a certain food product may qualify as a protected geographical indication is in Belgium determined by the regions (Belgium has three: the Flemish, the Walloon and Brussels). After that, the file is transferred to the European Commission for further investigation and definitive approval at the EU level.
In 2010, the Walloon region recognised Saucisson d'Ardenne, a sort of salami, as a protected geographical indication. Two Flemish meat-producing companies challenged this decision, arguing that Saucisson d'Ardenne had become a generic name and that therefore the salami may be manufactured and sold under that name in Flanders as well.
The Council of State, Belgium's highest legal advisory body, recently rejected the first of the claims and thus endorsed the Walloon region's decision. The Council stated that the Ardennes have a reputation with regard to salted meat, created by the protection obtained for the well-known Jambon d'Ardenne many years ago.
The ruling means that, in the future, meat producers will no longer be allowed to manufacture and sell Saucisson d'Ardenne in Flanders. The sausage can only be manufactured in the Ardennes (Walloon region) using meat prepared by local butchers.
The Council has yet to render a decision in the second case. This decision is expected within the next few months. If the second case is also rejected by the Council, the file could be transferred to the European Commission. The latter could then recognise Saucisson d'Ardenne as a protected geographical indication across the entire EU, placing the Belgian sausage alongside other famous agricultural products, foodstuffs, spirits and wines such as feta cheese, parma ham, scotch whisky and cava. The French-speaking (south) Walloon region of Belgium would undoubtedly be very pleased with such protection, but whether or not the Dutch-speaking (north) region of Flanders will be equally thrilled is a different question. To be continued.
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