Slovenia files lawsuit against European Commission as Teran wine dispute escalates

Slovenia files lawsuit against European Commission as Teran wine dispute escalates
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest September 17, 2017

Slovenia has filed a lawsuit against the European Commission (EC) at the General Court of the European Union demanding the annulment of a decision allowing Croatia to use the Teran wine name, which is already protected by Slovenia.

Relations between Slovenia and neighbouring Croatia are becoming increasingly tense. In addition to the Teran wine dispute — Ljubljana has long objected to the use of the name by Croatian winemakers — a recent border arbitration ruling that went in Slovenia’s favour but is contested by Zagreb has further inflamed the situation. 

“Slovenia has filed a lawsuit because it considers that the regulation is illegal for several reasons and that its use will cause economic damage to Slovene growers of Teran,” the Slovenian agriculture ministry said in a statement.

Teran wine is mainly produced from red wine grapes grown on the Slovenian Karst plateau, but vineyards in Croatia have also been producing wine under the Teran name for many years, while "Terrano" wine is produced in Italy, which also borders Slovenia.

Slovenia previously believed it had won the so called “Teran battle” with Croatia in April 2013, when the European Commission initially decided that Croatian producers could not sell wine under the Teran name. However, the battle has continued, and this year the EC has launched procedures to allow Croatian wine producers to use the name, despite loud protests from Slovenia.

On May 19, the EC adopted a delegated act specifying the conditions under which the name of the Teran wine grape variety may appear on wine labels of the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Hrvatska Istra, a Croatian wine. According to the EC, Teran wine is and will remain a Slovenian PDO registered in the EU, meaning that under existing EU rules, it is protected against any commercial use of the name by other wines that do not respect the rules set out in the technical file of the PDO Teran of the Slovenian Karst region.

“The granting of an exemption which allows Croatian producers to designate the Teran variety in wines produced in Croatia’s Istria is misleading for consumers because they may mistakenly consider it to be the same type of wine,” the Slovenian agriculture ministry said.

It added that Slovenia had raised a number of concerns about the adoption procedure, especially taking into account the fact the allocation of a possible exemption should have been resolved during pre-accession negotiations with Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013.

Ljubljana has previously claimed foul play in the Teran battle, with officials saying that Zagreb forged documents it submitted to the EC. 

The lawsuit comes on top of other tensions between Slovenia and Croatia concerning the recent border arbitration ruling. Slovenia announced on September 6 that it cannot support Croatia's candidacy to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) after Zagreb refused to accept the ruling giving Slovenia access to the high seas, claiming the process was corrupted.