Postcard from... Brussels


Click to follow
The Independent Online

When neighbouring countries are both hailed for their gastronomic prowess, it’s only natural that there is a bit of healthy competition.

Belgium and France are certainly no stranger to the occasional culinary tiff. Earlier this year, the battle of the frites broke out, with a whole seminar devoted to finding the origin of the tasty potato snack found on sale at street stalls throughout Brussels. Belgium is undoubtedly the home of frites – but they were allegedly invented next door.

Now it is the neighbours’ national tipples causing friction on both sides of the border. Last year, France declared it would be imposing a 160 per cent excise on sales of beer, a beverage that the Belgians are justly famous for. There are 450 different varieties of beer produced at nearly 180 breweries across Belgium, making the country one of the world’s largest producers.

Given that 32 per cent of its exports head to France, the industry took it hard and started lobbying for the tax to be scrapped.

That didn’t happen and Belgian brewers are expected to file a complaint against France at the EU. Local media say a complaint filed in the coming weeks will accuse the French tax of being in violation of the European single market.

And if that does not work,  they could hit the French where it hurts.

Belgian officials last year threatened to retaliate with a similar levy on wine, a tipple treated with equal reverence on the other side of the border.