Hungary’s planned symbol ban could hurt Heineken

Drinks

Hungarian lawmakers of the governing Fidesz-KDNP submitted a bill to Parliament that would ban the use of what it calls “totalitarian symbols” for commercial purposes, according to reports. Local media has speculated this could hit Heineken, which uses a red star symbol, although the firm declines to comment for now.

Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén and János Lázár submitted the bill. In its justification, the two MPs say that allowing the use of the symbols gives them “a kind of legitimacy”, Hungarian news agency MTI reported.

Under the bill symbols such as the swastika, the arrow cross, the sickle and hammer and the red star would be banned for commercial use 30 days after it is approved by Parliament. Violating the ban after January 1, 2018 would constitute a criminal offence.

Hungarian media immediately identified Heineken as a brand that could possibly be hurt by the ban. However, the brand has not taken a public stance in the matter yet. “For the moment we are not in the position to comment on any of the below points,” Heineken Hungary told the Budapest Business Journal.

According to the brewer’s Heineken Collection Foundation website, established to promote and protect the brand’s cultural history and values, the five-pointed star goes back to at least 1883, and was first colored red in the 1930s.

In the past months a diplomatic row has been unfolding between Heineken and Lázár over the naming of a beer. A Romanian court banned the use of the name Csíki Sör for a local beer after Heineken brought the matter to court after it bought a competitor with a similar name, Ciuc beer. The beer belongs to a small ethnic Hungarian-owned brewery in Transilvania. Csíki Sör was renamed Tiltott Igazi Sör (which translates as Banned True Beer), though it still sports the original name in runes. Ever since, many Hungarian politicians, including Lázár and Jobbik MPs, have called for a boycott of Heineken products in Hungary, a call the local Dutch embassy has tagged as worrying.

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