Austria-Slovenia food fight over Krainer sausage

A row has broken out between Slovenia and Austria over the name of a sausage.

Slovenia wants the Kranjska klobasa, or Krainer sausage, to be given protected EU status, similar to Parmesan, champagne and the Cornish pasty.

It says the sausage, made of minced pork and seasoned with garlic and pepper, was invented in northern Slovenia in the 19th Century.

But that has upset Austria, where a cheese-filled variation of the sausage, the Kaesekrainer, is a great favourite.

Slovenia is applying to the European Commission for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, because of the meat's connection to the Kranjska region.

If successful, only sausages produced in Slovenia to the traditional recipe will be able to call themselves Kranjska or Krainer.

But when the sausage was invented the area was part of the multi-national Austro-Hungarian Empire known in German as Krain and in English as Carniola.

Austria's chamber of commerce, patent office and agriculture ministry say they have joined together to challenge Slovenia's bid.

They say the loss of the Kaesekrainer name would be an economic blow to sausage producers and to Austria's cultural heritage.

Josef Bitzinger from the Vienna Chamber of Commerce says the idea of a Vienna sausage stand without a Kaesekrainer is unthinkable. "To rename this beloved speciality is simply impossible," he said in a statement.

"Vienna sausage stands are a trademark of the city and Kaesekrainers have to be on offer. Frankfurter sausages are called Wiener Wuerstel in Germany and that is not a problem."

Image caption Viennese officials argue that the decision to add cheese to the sausage was an Austrian idea

According to Mr Bitzinger, the decision to add cheese to the Krainer sausage was an Austrian invention, dating back to the 1980s.

In its application for PGI status, Slovenia admits that it was the Austro-Hungarian Empire that helped spread the fame of the sausage.

The application even refers to the "picturesque tale" of Emperor Franz Joseph, who tasted the sausage at a coaching inn on the way from Vienna to Trieste. When the emperor asked the innkeeper what was on the menu, the man replied: "We have only ordinary house sausages, nothing else."

When the emperor tried it, "he exclaimed enthusiastically in German: 'But this is no ordinary sausage, it is a Krainer sausage!'"

But Austria and Slovenia's shared history may not necessarily make it easier to find a solution.

If they cannot work out their differences over the next six months, the European Commission will take matters into its own hands and make a ruling.

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