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Will the Hungarian Government Attempt to Ban Heineken Logo as a “Symbol of Tyranny”?

Tom Szigeti 2017.03.14.

Yesterday, a proposed bill was introduced into the Hungarian parliament that would amend a current law in order to ban the commercial use of “symbols of tyranny”; these would include the swastika, arrow cross (the Hungarian Fascists’ symbol), Hammer and Sickle, and the Red Star.

This last symbol is the most interesting, in the sense that, perhaps not coincidentally, there is in fact a company which has been in conflict with the Hungarian government, and whose logo just happens to have a red star in it: Heineken.

Following the lengthy legal battle over copyright issues between ‘Igazi Csiki Sör,’ a small brewery run by members of the Szekler Hungarian minority in the Transylvania region of Romania, and the Netherlands-based beer multinational, several Hungarian government officials, including PMO head János Lázár, called for a boycott of Heineken products.

The dispute between the two brewers stems from the ‘Igazi Csiki Sör’ name. ‘Igazi Csíki Sör’ (‘The real beer of Csík’), has a similar name to a Romanian beer owned by Heineken, “Ciuc beer” (“Csík” means “Ciuc” in Romanian language and refers to a small region of Transylvania with massive ethnic Hungarian majority).

In January, a Romanian regional court ruled in favor of Heineken against the local Hungarian beer in their age-long legal dispute over the brand copyrights.

The Romanian ruling directly contradicts an EU court, which ruled in favor of the Hungarian product and against Heineken on 9th of December 2016.

The producer of ‘Igazi Csíki sör” employs about 140 people in Transylvania. The company said the Romanian court’s ruling was an attack against a local company, which is proud of its Hungarian identity, language and symbols.

Since the ruling, the company changed its labels, and now sells “Tiltott Igazi Sör” (Banned Real Bear), in a direct dig at the Romanian court ruling.

According to the proposed amendment, the commercial use of such “tyrannical” symbols would become a crime punishable by up to two years in prison. The law would go into effect 30 days after passing, but the commercial use of such logos would only become a crime starting on January 1st, 2018.

Despite the proposed law and government officials’ calls for a boycott of Heineken, however, the Dutch multinational’s logo does have at least one defender: the virtually non-existent Hungarian Workers’ Party, a successor to the Communist party, that ruled the country under a one-party dictatorship for over 40 years.

In a statement, the ‘party’ (which has never had any seats in the parliament since the end of Communism, and which has consistently received less than 1% of the vote since 2002), boldly pronounced its condemnation and defiance of the proposed law and of the ruling Fidesz party. The Workers’ Party wrote that the true target of the law was not Heineken; no, this “beer war” is merely being used by “political powers” as an excuse “to move against those critical of the regime.” One assumes that Workers’ Party members include themselves in this targeted category.

Via Portfolio.hu, index.hu, napi.hu, and parlament.hu

Images via Heineken.com and Wikimedia Commons

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