German companies failing to observe European legislation on PDO

Brussels, 7st April 2004 – The Consortium and producers of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese welcomed the decision of the European Commission to send a "reasoned opinion" on the "parmesan" case to Germany because of failure to observe European legislation on PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). This opinion represents the second and final stage of the infringement procedure before recourse to the European Court of Justice.
"We are very satisfied with this decision of the Commission," declared Leo Bertozzi, director of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium, "since the persistent use of the designation 'parmesan' on the part of certain German companies is seriously damaging the image and reputation of our fine cheese, creating confusion among consumers about the origin and the quality of the product they are buying."
The Commission initiated the infringement procedure on 16th October 2003, after the presentation by the Consortium of a statement on the persistent use in Germany of the denomination "parmesan" for cheeses having none of the features characterising Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO and coming from zones that are not included in the area of origin. In spite of the fact that on 25th June 2002 the European Court of Justice had recognised that the term "parmesan" is the translation of "Parmigiano-Reggiano", some German dairy producers continued making unlawful use of the denomination.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of the most famous European cheeses in the world and enjoys a protected designation of origin (PDO) recognised by European regulations. Article 13 of EEC Regulation 2081/92 protects PDO products and their respective translations from any deceptive use, imitation or reference to the designations within the borders of the European community.
"European legislation," concluded Bertozzi, "is very clear respecting our rights regarding the term 'parmesan'. It relates to a denomination reserved to Italian producers in the area of origin who observe the disciplines of production of this typical cheese. Therefore, we ask Germany to adopt all the measures necessary to bring to a halt the unlawful use of the designation "Parmigiano-Reggiano" and its related translation 'parmesan' on the German market and conform to the requirements of the European legislation."

Technical note regarding infringement procedures

Under the provisions of article 226 of the EU treaty, the European Commission may decide to initiate legal proceedings against any member country which acts in violation of community law. The decision to send a reasoned opinion constitutes the second stage provided for under this procedure. Germany will now have two months in which to respond to the Commission's opinion. If the response is not considered to be satisfactory, the Commission will bring the case before the European Court of Justice, which will require Germany to enforce observance of EEC Regulation 2081/92 and its principles.

Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium
in collaboration with Centro Stampa - Bologna

David Thual
tel. fax +32 (0)2 7329727; mobile +32 (0)497 420769