MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Greece has notched a decisive victory in the cheese war, Feta cheese, to be precise. The European Union's highest court yesterday issued a long-awaited ruling and decreed that only Feta cheese made in Greece is worthy of carrying the name Feta. This ruling means that Feta producers in Denmark, Germany, France and Britain will all have to figure out what to call their crumbly, briny cheese because the EU says it sure isn't Feta. First, to the winner in this fight, the Greeks. Christos Avgoulas is secretary general of the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food. He joins us from Athens.
Mr. CHRISTOS AVGOULAS (Secretary General, Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food): Thank you very much for the invitation.
BLOCK: And, Mr. Avgoulas, tell us please what is so distinctive about Greek Feta.
Mr. AVGOULAS: I think that Greek Feta is a delicious cheese and that we believe, the European Union believes also, that this cheese--the name of the cheese belongs to Greece. There is no other country that can produce such a white cheese.
BLOCK: Well, how did the Greeks celebrate when this decision came down ruling that the Feta is the province of the Greeks?
Mr. AVGOULAS: Well, we don't celebrate, but we will continue to produce cheese with a particular quality and we will continue to work hard to offer special cheese as Feta. We don't celebrate; we're happy.
BLOCK: Mr. Avgoulas...
Mr. AVGOULAS: Yes?
BLOCK: ...if I were to sit you down with, say, five or six plates of different kind of Feta and give you a blind taste test and say, `Please pick out the Greek Feta cheese,' do you think you could pass that test?
Mr. AVGOULAS: Yes, I think that all people who have tasted the best Greek Feta cheese can recognize this cheese if they will taste it again.
BLOCK: Mr. Avgoulas, do you ever eat Danish Feta cheese?
Mr. AVGOULAS: No, because we are completely full with our Feta cheese.
BLOCK: Christos Avgoulas is secretary general of the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food.
Mr. Avgoulas, congratulations to you and your fellow Greeks.
Mr. AVGOULAS: Thank you very much.
BLOCK: Now to one of the losers in the Feta fight, Hans Bender of the Danish Dairy Board.
And, Mr. Bender, this is not a good day for Danish Feta.
Mr. HANS BENDER (Danish Dairy Board): No, it's not the best day we've had.
BLOCK: Well, tell me what's wrong with this ruling from the EU's high court.
Mr. BENDER: Well, in our view, everything is wrong. We see this ruling as a contradiction of a whole range of basic European law provisions. Feta has been inscribed in Danish legislation for more than 40 years. We've had rulings in Denmark on Feta. It has been considered as a generic product. And the EU legislation itself has inscribed Feta as a generic product open for everybody to utilize this denomination. So what the court, in fact, has done is violate all these sound, legal principles. So this is--to put it in the American way, this is crap.
BLOCK: Excuse me?
Mr. BENDER: This is crap.
BLOCK: I see.
Mr. BENDER: If Feta can be protected, everything can be protected. It may be Greek, as well. Nobody knows from where the product comes. It's a normal--it's a standard product in just--not just in Greece, but also in the rest of the Balkans. It has for centuries been a commodity product in that whole area. So it does not come from Greece; that's a hoax. It comes from somewhere.
BLOCK: I think the Greeks would dispute you on that, Mr. Bender.
Mr. BENDER: Yeah. Well, I don't really care what the Greeks mean about that. This is historical fact.
BLOCK: Well, I guess the real question for you now is what are you going to call this cheese? If you can't call it Feta, what's it going to be?
Mr. BENDER: There is no other name we can use for Feta except brand names. But we're not fighting because of Feta; we're fighting because of the principle.
BLOCK: Mr. Bender, thanks for talking with us.
Mr. BENDER: OK. You're welcome.
BLOCK: And I understand, by the way, you're going to a cocktail party. Is that right?
Mr. BENDER: I have to be there in 10 minutes.
BLOCK: I was just wondering if they're serving Danish Feta?
Mr. BENDER: Oh, it's a national dish.
BLOCK: You figure it'll be on the menu.
Mr. BENDER: I would be disappointed if it would not be because it's a national dish in Denmark and it has been for centuries.
BLOCK: That's Hans Bender, director of the Danish Dairy Board. We also heard from Christos Avgoulas, secretary of the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food.
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