GERMANY STRIKES BACK ON PARMESAN. "UNACCEPTABLE POSITION" STATES THE CONSORTIUM

The Court of Justice of the European Communities met this morning

Reggio Emilia, 13th February 2007 - "We are sorry and, at the same time, surprised for the attitude taken on by Germany; however, we are also optimistic about the outcome of a controversy for which the Consortium has made huge efforts to protect producers and consumers, and which affects not only the interests of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, but also all European products bearing a DPO".
This was the off-the-cuff comment of the Chairman of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium, Giuseppe Alai, at the end of the session of the Court of Justice of the European Communities, which met this morning to hear the parties involved in the infringement procedure filed by the European Commission against Germany for having violated the norms on Geographical Indications, and in particular for having used the name "Parmesan" for cheese produced in Germany thereby breaching the regulation for the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
The Advocate of the Court of Justice will present his conclusion by 28th June and the judgement will be probably passed by the end of the year. In the meantime, the coup de theatre during today's hearing.
Despite the observations gathered by the Court of Justice in 2002 according to which several Governments underlined that the name "Parmesan" was not generic, but was the faithful translation of the DPO "Parmigiano-Reggiano", this morning Germany maintained that also the words "Parmigiano" and "Reggiano" have to be considered generic, thereby intensifying a confrontation that has gone on for years and about which the Court of Justice shall pronounce its final judgement.
"Frankly speaking - underlines Leo Bertozzi, the Consortium's Director - this position is both unacceptable and a bit paradoxical, considering that the European Commission started the infringement procedure against Germany for having used the name "Parmesan", which is associated to a cheese coming from Italy by 88% of the German citizens above 15 years of age. Therefore, if this is sufficient to deceive consumers, it would be even worse if the name "Parmigiano" were used. In addition to this, as the Italian state lawyer pointed out, the proceedings should not even discuss the protection of the name "Parmesan" because it was fully recognised by Community legislation and ratified by the Court in its judgement of 2002".
"We cannot thus consider - Bertozzi adds - that there may be a judgement in favour of Germany, which would mean dismantling the entire system of Geographical Indications established in Europe (and protected by the same European legislation for registered designations, including their translations) with huge repercussions on producers and consumers, who would be without any protection against deceptive designations and publicity".
The thesis expressed by the Consortium has been supported today by the European Commission, the Italian and the Czech Governments.
"Awaiting the judgement and repeating our trust in the Court of Justice in an extremely difficult work phase - Bertozzi concludes - we will carry on protecting Parmigiano-Reggiano with all the means available, first of all by concluding the legal action taken against one of the main German producers of hard cheese illegally designated "Parmesan".