Protesters in Berlin staged an enormous sausage grill-in after city officials attempted to shut down “Bratwurst at the Brandenburger Gate” on the grounds that it did not fit in with the area’s new image. The ensuing protests served to highlight new EU legislation that protects regional delicacies.

Half a million Berliners joined peace protesters around the world recently when they took to the streets to decry the threat of war in Iraq. Some of the marchers were apparently still hungry for direct action – and grilled bratwurst – as they reconvened under the Brandenburger Tor a week later to defend a grilled bratwurst stand threatened with closure. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder himself is reportedly partial to the odd curry sausage.

“Bratwurst at the Brandenburger Gate” operates at the foot of the famous monument that was for years a symbol of Berlin’s – and Germany’s – partition. Once no man’s land, the area of the city around the gate has benefited from huge investments in urban regeneration since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is now home to luxury hotels and embassies, and within walking distance of the new Bundestag.

For months, the stand’s owners, Curt Bosenberg and Thomas Heeder, have resisted the municipal authorities’ attempts to move their business. Prompted by a televised appeal, Berliners marched to the Brandenburg Gate carrying barbecues and held their own bratwurst grill-in in protest at heavy-handed officialdom.

The Berliners are joined by the Thuringians in their ferocious defense of their bratwurst. Thuringian bratwurst now comes under recent EU legislation aiming to protect regional products from cheaper alternatives that seek to profit from the original’s reputation. As a result, only bratwurst actually manufactured in Thuringia can be called Thuringer Bratwurst.

The legislation should help smaller producers of registered products to stand up to competition from larger producers attempting to emulate their wares. The system is loosely based on the French “Appellation d’Origine Controllee”, and has recently benefited Cornish clotted cream, Greek Feta and Melton Mowbray pork pies. At the same time, it also benefits the increasing numbers of consumers who are prepared to pay a premium for regional, specialty or high-quality food and drink products.

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