KRANJ, Slovenia – It's a diplomatic rift that has both countries hungry for a fight. The subject of the spat? A humble pork sausage.
Slovenia calls the spicy delicacy "Kranjska klobasa" and Austria "Krainerwurst" — variants of the same name that belongs to the border region the sausage comes from. Both countries have enjoyed the snack for centuries and consider it part of their cultural heritage.
Now, Slovenia has applied to the European Union for exclusive use of the name, and the Austrians are having none of it.
"We're not going to allow anyone to deny us the Krainer," declared Austrian Agriculture Minister Niki Berlakovich. He said that giving up the name would hurt the country's economy and threaten its culinary traditions.
Slovenia — which hosts the Kranjska (or Krainer) region — wants the sausage to be given special Protected Geographical Indication status by the EU. That designation has been given to such famous brands as Champagne wine in France, Parmesan cheese in Italy and Melton Mowbray pork pies in the United Kingdom.
"All the arguments are on our side," said Slovenian Agriculture and Environment Minister Franc Bogovic. "We expect the protection of the Kranjska sausage by the European Commission."
If the two EU neighbors cannot settle the dispute within the next few months, the Commission will have to make the ruling. If Slovenia wins, the Austrians will have to change the name of their sausage. The Austrians aren't demanding the Slovenes change the name of theirs.
The Slovenes insist that the culinary specialty, made of minced pork and seasoned with garlic and pepper, originated on their territory in the 19th century when the tiny Alpine state was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
"There is no doubt among the experts that Kranjska sausage must be given the geographical protected status," said Slovene ethnology professor Janez Bogataj. "But this (clash) has gained political connotations which must be avoided."
Austrians say there's no way they will change the name, either for the standard or the cheese-filled version of the sausage — called Kaesekrainer — that is one of the most popular treats at the country's trademark sausage stands.
"We have had the Krainers for so long," said butcher Johannes Rotter, displaying different versions of the sausage in his shop window in the Austrian town of Klagenfurt.
Dusan Stojanovic from Belgrade, Serbia and George Jahn from Vienna, Austria contributed.