EC threatens to unleash Belgian sausage war

The European Commission is risking a right Belgian row after it unveiled its plans to afford special protection to "saucisson d'ardenne". The commission intends to recognise the delicacy as a protected geographic product - somewhat like champagne - making it impossible for Flemish producers to manufacture the traditional Belgian sausage and market it as such.

The Ardennes is an area in Wallonia, though Flanders too boasts its hilly equivalent called the "Flemish Ardennes".

It was during King Filip's visit to the Marcassou meat factory in Champlon last week that the Walloon farm minister unveiled the European commission's plans.

Captain of Flemish industry Willy Naessens, who is the main shareholder of an Aartselaar meat factory that produces "saucisson d'ardenne" in Flanders has said he will accept the decision and will no longer label the product as such, though he concedes he doesn't get it: "It's illogical because the sausage is made of Belgian pork both in Wallonia and in Flanders. You just have to find the right spices to create the right taste. Why should we make a distinction? It's the same pigs, the same product!"

Mr Naessens is not impressed but accepts "the law is the law": "We're not going to act like Belgian politicians" he adds.

Some Flemish meat businesses with factories in the geographic area of the Ardennes can sidestep the European commission's designation. Mr Naessens points out that he owns a factory at the foot of the "Flemish Ardennes", a hilly area in East Flanders, and is now considering labelling his sausage as "Flemish Ardennes sausage".