Lázár warns Heineken to ‘let Csíki beer live’

Drinks

Hungary’s Cabinet Chief János Lázár has warned Heineken not to squeeze Transylvanian craft beer Csíki out of the market, suggesting that the Hungarian government is ready to take steps to prevent this, according to a report by state news agency MTI.

“Weʼve asked the Heineken group to uphold the principle of ʼlive and let liveʼ,” Lázár told journalists, according to the Hungarian wire service. “If Heineken does not make a show of cooperation... and continues to want to crush Real Csíki Beer, the government has a number of tools with which it is prepared to defend Hungarian national interests,” Lázár reportedly warned.

According to MTI, the Hungarian government’s representatives have asked for the assistance of the local unit of Heineken as well as the Dutch ambassador to resolve the trademark dispute between the multinational brewer and an ethnic Hungarian-owned microbrewery in Sânsimion (Csíkszentsimon), Romania, the head of the Prime Ministerʼs Office said during a visit to the brewery on Friday.

A Romanian court banned the use of the name Csíki Sör for the local beer when Heineken brought the matter to court after it bought a competitor with a similar name, Ciuc beer. Csíki Sör was renamed Tiltott Igazi Sör (which translates as Banned Genuine Beer), though it still sports the original name in runic writing. Ever since, many Hungarian politicians, including Lázár and far-right Jobbik MPs, have called for a boycott of Heineken products in Hungary.

Adopting a separate line of attack, Hungarian lawmakers of the governing Fidesz-KDNP coalition earlier submitted a bill to Parliament that would ban the use of what it calls “totalitarian symbols” for commercial purposes. While some reports suggested the governing party would back out from the bill, Lázár, one of its drafters, made comments that suggested the bill is particularly aimed at Heineken, which uses a red star symbol in its logo (though the star has been visible on its label without obvious controversy for at least the last 25 years).

The controversy was whipped up further today when it was announced that a Hungarian association and foundation have filed a lawsuit against Heineken for using the red star in its logo.

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