||The Balkans are at war again. This time battle will be waged over the right to produce and export "rakia" in the European Union countries under the name "rakia". This issue might be interpreted by some as firm confirmation of the old Balkan saying: "All Bulgarian roads pass through an inn" meaning all problems find a resolution there.
This time, however, the problems seemed to have started in the inns.
Producers of spirits in Macedonia are panicking because of Bulgaria's decision to address the European Commission with the request to register rakia and mastika as Bulgarian products.
Romania, Bulgaria's northern neighbour, has claimed that rakia is their traditional alcoholic beverage and should be registered under the name "rakiu" denoting an alcoholic beverage made of plums.
Slovenia, in turn, has claimed rights over the "kostilska rakia" trade mark.
The words "rakia" and "mastika" are actually widely used across the Balkans as a whole, associate professor Borislav Georgiev, a linguist at New Bulgarian University was quoted as saying by several Bulgarian media in the past week. The Balkan languages can be said to have borrowed the word "rakia" from Turkish, while Western European languages have borrowed it from the Arab vocabulary.
The word for mastika, on the other hand, is derived from the Late Latin word used to denote the fragrant tar extracted from a special kind of tree of the same name.
Georgiev said that all countries which were once part of the Ottoman empire now have grounds to claim that the rakia and mastika are their traditional beverages.
It seems that arriving at compromises is much easier in linguistics than it is in business.
So far no one has claimed the denomination "mastika" and there is huge likelihood that Bulgaria may have mastika protected in the European Union, Minister for European Affairs Meglena Kuneva said. Her optimistic message was the subject of much comment in the Bulgarian press. Macedonian media again protested against Bulgaria's claims regarding mastika, saying that Macedonia's traditions in the production of the anise beverage go back 300 years. This statement has been treated mainly as an emotional outburst, since in 2003, Macedonia celebrated the centennial anniversary of its statehood.
Cognac, champagne, Bordeaux, and ouzo are among the Western European product denominations which have already been protected by the European Union. The protection measures are necessary since these products are very popular and are often copied. According to official statistics, France is earning $31 billion a year, $8.5 billion of this from exports.
Bulgarian producers are quick to follow in the same steps and ensure future incomes from a protected trademark.
Bulgaria's goal is to include traditional Bulgarian products in the special register kept by the European Union to include products with protected denomination for origin. About 100 geographical denominations, listed in the Bulgarian patent office, are expected to pass much easier the registration procedures at the European Union after 2007, when Bulgaria is expected to join the EU as a full-fledged member.
Bulgaria has already approached the European Commission to win protection for denominations such as "rakia" and "mastika" by analogy with what Italy and Greece have achieved by protecting their "grappa" and "ouzo," Emilia Vulcheva of the Euro Integration department of the Ministry of Agriculture told a news conference earlier this week.
Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia may all be turned down in the long run, and have to kiss goodbye to the trade mark "rakia", experts forecast. This, however, does not mean that denominations such as "karlovska grape rakia" cannot be registered.
Currently Bulgaria has a list of products with protected denomination of origin which has been put to Brussels with the request to have all the products included in it, also incorporated into the European register.
Bulgarian rose oil and lavender oil are on that list.
The international price of Bulgarian rose oil is about 4000 a kg. The exports currently vary between 800 and 900 kg a year.
The association of meat producers in Bulgaria wishes to license the Bulgarian "pastarma," "lukanka" and "sudzhuk" - special flat sausages traditional for Bulgaria. Smiadovska lukanka is already on the list of protected denominations of origin which the Bulgarian state has submitted to officials in Brussels.
Pine honey is also threatened to fall out of Bulgaria's protected denominations of origin. Producers and merchants trading in pine honey risk confiscation of their goods if they put it on the market with this trade mark. As of last year, in compliance with EU requirements, producers are allowed to put the word "honey" on the label of the product, only if the product is produced by honey bees from the nectar of flowers, herbs or leaves and contains no impurities. In the case of pine honey it should bear a label saying "pine jam."