Olomoucké tvarůžky – famous yellow cheeses produced in the Olomouc region in the Czech Republic – are instantly recognisable for their odour and gummy texture: they are most definitely an acquired taste. But they are also a product of which many Czechs are justifiably proud. Since 2004, representatives have sought EU protection recognising the tvarůžky as a distinct local specialty, something which is not going to happen, at least not yet.
Olomoucké tvarůžky aren’t for everyone but fans who swear by their gummy texture and taste are usually fans for life. Then there’s the history: the curd cheese with no preservatives and little fat, has been produced in the town of Loštice in the Olomouc region since 1876. Their first mention in historic documents goes back even further: in the 17th century, even Emperor Rudolf II himself is said to have been a fan. The Czechs have been seeking protected status for the cheese since 2004 but the matter has not proven simple: Austrian and German producers themselves have long manufactured their own variation known as Olmutzer Quargel, which has complicated things for the Czechs. Last week the European Commission received objections from both Austrian and German producers who don’t feel Czechs should have exclusive rights to the Olomouc brand name. Bernd Posselt is a well-known German Euro MP:
“There are a lot of specialties which are very typical for Moravia and Bohemia and they were always common specialities of both Czechs and Sudeten Germans. They produced them and ate them together for centuries. And then there was the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans. So, they are specialities for both those in the Czech Republic and also for the Sudeten Germans who lived before in the Bohemian lands. It’s a part of their tradition as well.”
Some 2.5 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War, and Bernd Posselt says Olmutzer Quargel produced in Germany and Austria ever since is based on the same tradition. But Czech Euro MP Jan Březina dismisses the argument. Politics and history aside, he asserts there are key differences in the products, based on original know-how and technology:
“First of all, there is a difference in the technology: Austrian and German products are closer to a so-called hard cheese, and of course their Olmutzer product is not from Moravia. So, from my point of view, their objections are not based on correct argumentation.”
MEP Jan Březina has expressed optimism that the Czechs will prevail but he says it could be “a tough battle”. By contrast, German MEP Bernd Posselt has expressed the hope that the EU Commission’s decision, when it comes, will not favour one side:
“They are small enterprises, specialised in very typical local products and I think there is enough space in the whole European Union for all the producers of Olomoucký Quargel.”
Public broadcaster Czech TV reported that the European Commission’s decision should come within six months but other sources have specified the commission is not restricted by a deadline.