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“Lex Heineken”: Hungarian Government Vows To Insist On Controversial Bill Proposal

Tamás Székely 2017.03.22.

The Hungarian government sees no reason to withdraw the bill prohibiting the commercial use of totalitarian symbols, government office chief János Lázár and deputy prime minister Zsolt Semjén told news site atv.hu, reacting to news reports speculating about government plans to abandon the bill.


The controversial bill proposal was submitted by Deputy PM Zsolt Semjén (L) and Cabinet Chief János Lázár (R)

“Lex Heineken” would ban the use of symbols such as the swastika, the arrow cross, the hammer and sickle as well as the red star for commercial purposes 30 days after the bill’s approval, although their use would not become a criminal offense until the start of next year. The bill’s authors argued that allowing the use of the symbols lends them “a kind of legitimacy”. Heineken is a strategic partner of Hungary, Lázár acknowledged in parliament earlier. The bill, however, does not attack the company as an employer or a taxpayer but aims to achieve a level of respect for Hungary’s national interests from multinational companies. The main aim is to preserve the dignity of the victims of the Holocaust and communism, Lázár added.

The bill is politically and legally viable as well as being morally right, Semjén told atv.hu. Protecting a small brewery from the attack of a multinational company is more a national issue than an economic one, he said. Heineken’s steps to squeeze out competitor Igazi Csíki Sör (Real Csíki Beer) from the Romanian market is one of the reasons MPs of the governing Fidesz-KDNP alliance submitted a bill that would ban the use of totalitarian symbols for commercial purposes, Lázár said earlier, adding that the main reason for the bill, however, was to preserve the dignity of the victims of the Holocaust and communism.


Transylvania’s most popular Hungarian beer was called “the Real Csíki Beer” (Igazi Csíki Sör)

However, a conservative legal analyst finds it ridiculous and unconstitutional that the government intends to enact a law in retaliation against Heineken which has had a Hungarian Transylvanian beer banned by a Romanian court. In daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet, Beáta Bakó considers the fight of the Csíki beer company for its brand name as a very professional marketing offensive, as it is trying to depict its trade conflict as a matter of Hungarian national pride. She thinks, however, that the government should not be part of this effort. Legally speaking, she is convinced that the law will not pass the constitutionality test. The Criminal Code already bans autocratic symbols from public use, she argues, but the existing ban is confined to cases where those symbols are likely to stir disorder, which is obviously not the case with Heineken. She suspects that the two politicians who authored the bill have been motivated by political rather than commercial or legal considerations.

In January, a Romanian court upheld a ruling prohibiting a small brewery in Transylvania from marketing its product as “Real Csíki Beer” because Heineken already owns the “Ciuc” brand, which means “Csíki” in Romanian. Csík (Ciuc in Romanian) is a historical region in Transylvania, overwhelmingly inhabited by Hungarians. Its name has been used by a local beer factory (run by Hungarians) as the brand name of their product. But Heineken had patented its own Ciuc beer brand years earlier and sued Csiki beer for misappropriation of its brand name. Heineken lost in the first and second instances and its claim was also rejected by the patent office (Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market – Trade Marks and Designs) of the European Union. Nevertheless, Csíki beer was ultimately banned by the Romanian appeal court at Marosvásárhely (Tirgu Mures in Romanian) in January.

The beer has won several prizes in Hungary and several Hungarian organisations have called on the public to boycott Heineken. Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén and János Lázár, the Minster in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office have tabled a bill aimed at banning autocratic symbols from store shelves. The bill is widely considered as being aimed against Heineken which has a red star as its logo.

via hungarymatters.hu, MTI and budapost.eu

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