EU Hearings Start in Slovenia vs Croatia Teran Wine Case (Background)

By , 02 Dec 2019, 15:55 PM Business
EU Hearings Start in Slovenia vs Croatia Teran Wine Case (Background) Elle Hughes CC-by-0

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STA, 2 December 2019 - The General Court of the European Union will start with oral hearings Tuesday related to Slovenia's legal action against the European Commission for granting Croatia a derogation enabling it to use Teran, the name of a red wine protected by Slovenia.

Hearings at the General Court are similar to those at the European Court of Justice. Each side presents their views and then judges ask questions.

The hearings will be similar to the July oral hearing in a case that Slovenia has brought against Croatia due to Croatia's failure to implement the 2017 border arbitration award.

However, judges of the General Court usually ask more questions and the questions are more detailed, and there is also no advocate general.

A ruling is expected a few months after the hearings, the court has said.

The hearings will be open for the public but may not be recorded. A panel of five judges will be ruling in the case, and their identity will be revealed on Tuesday.

EU institutions and member states can express their support to either of the parties involved but other than Croatia no other countries are expected to present their views on the matter.

Slovenia brought the legal action on 15 September 2017, protesting against the Commission's decision to enable Croatia to use the name Teran for a grape variety for the designated Hrvatska Istra (Croatian Istra) wine label under certain terms.

Slovenia, which will be represented by the State Attorney's Office and German lawyer Roland Knaak, argues that the derogation is unlawful and that it would cause economic damage to Slovenian producers of Teran.

Slovenia will argue that the delegated act on Teran, which took effect on 21 July 2017, is null and void because it runs contrary to the principles of EU law, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food.

The ministry claims that the EU-proposed condition that the name Hrvatska Istra on the wine label is bigger than the Teran name is misleading for consumers, because they can wrongfully assume that this is the protected Slovenian Teran wine.

During the procedure to adopt the delegated act, Slovenia had been presenting numerous remarks related to the procedure and had been arguing that Croatia should have raised the Teran issue during its EU accession talks, before joining the EU.

In a response to Slovenia's action, the Commission reiterated that the delegated act in no way affected the status of the Slovenian protected wine and that the labelling conditions had made sure that consumers would not be misled.

The dispute over Teran broke out in April 2013 at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Luxembourg. After Slovenia removed Croatian wine that was sold under the name of Teran from store shelves, Croatia protested and called for a joint cross-border protection of Teran.

The European Commission said at the time that Slovenia had protected Teran as a Slovenian wine on the EU market, so no Croatian wine can be sold under that name, and that Croatia had not opposed to Slovenia's move.

But as the Commission's leadership changed in 2014, rumours started that the Commission was planning to adopt a delegated act on Teran in line with an agreement made during Croatia's accession talks, which Slovenia knew nothing about.

In December 2016, the Commission decided to grant Croatia a "limited exception" in the case of Teran, meaning that the country would be allowed to use the name for wines justifying existing labelling practices.

Subsequently, Slovenia has brought legal action against the Commission. After the General Court delivers its ruling, both parties will have the right to appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

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