Smoked Cheese at Center of Polish, Slovak Border Fight

A smoked cheese made for centuries in the Tatra mountains between Poland and Slovakia is at the center of a cross-border dispute between the two new European Union members, EU officials acknowledged Monday.

Slovakia has objected to Poland's bid to register oscypek cheese on the EU's list of protected traditional products — a move that would mean only producers on the Polish side of the border would be able to use the oscypek label.

The Slovak move has prevented Poland from adding the cheese to a list of hundreds of EU-protected food products that includes cheeses such as France Roquefort or Italy's Parmigiano as well as delicacies ranging from Scotch lamb to four varieties of Portuguese chestnut.

EU agriculture spokesman Michael Mann said Poland and Slovakia now have six months to find an amicable solution to the cheese dispute. If they do not, the EU's executive Commission will rule on who has rights to the name.

The EU has a history of disputes over traditional foods. A battle to keep feta cheese an exclusively Greek product raged for almost 20 years before the EU's court threw out complaints from German and Danish producers in 2005.

Poland, Sweden and other traditional vodka producers around the Baltic Sea are battling with Britain, the Netherlands and others about what constitutes vodka. EU trade negotiators have frequently become embroiled in disputes with wine producers around the world over who can use such labels as Champagne, port or sherry.

Oscypek is traditionally made from uwe's milk, soaked in brine and smoked. Poland had hoped it would have been added to the EU's protected list this month. It would have become only the second listed product from the eight Eastern European nations that joined the EU in 2004.

The first was Budejovicke beer from the Czech Republic, which is at the center of a long-running trademark dispute with Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., the American brewers of Budweiser.