Wednesday

12th May 2021

Slovakia fears losing 'sweet wine' court case

  • Sweet Tokaj wine grapes (Photo: Gergely Túry (HVG))

A long-lasting neighbourhood dispute between Hungary and Slovakia over the brandname Tokaj, for sweet wine, may be entering its final round.

Former Slovakian ministers' mistakes in dealing with legislation could mean the new Bratislava government loses the right to use the Tokaj name, said the country's farm minister Zsolt Simon. The right to the name is being challenged by the Hungarian government.

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"it's a result of the unqualified and unprofessional approach by my ministerial predecessors – primarily the last two (Stanislav Becik and Vladimir Chovan, both LS-HZDS party)," he added.

The conflict matter is intricate. The name dispute dates back to 1993 when Hungary and Slovakia signed an agreement to mutually accept wine names. Later, before they joined the EU, the two countries agreed a deal allowing three villages in Slovakia to use the Tokaj name for the wine produced from the grape cultivated in the area. But later there was disagreement about the concrete size of this area.

The European Commission had recently given Slovakia the go-ahead for registering one of its wine regions – hitherto known as Tokajská Vonohradnícka Oblast – under the name of Vinohradnícka Oblast Tokaj.

With the decision came permission to use the name "Tokaj." But use of the Tokaj name by Slovakian wine growers is endangered by the fact that when the European Commission in February registered the name 'Wine Region Tokaj,' Slovakian domestic legislation had no similar reference to the brand.

"I can't understand why my predecessors endangered the brand Tokaj,"said Mr Simon.

According to a commission spokesperson, no final decision has been made yet. Brussels has noted the fact that Slovakia has made various legal changes necessary to comply with EU rules.

The commission will now examine the legal situation in Slovakia and a meeting is due to take place in the coming weeks to clarify the legal and technical issues.

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