Heineken Could Be Banned in Hungary for Use of Red Star in Logo

The Eastern European nation hopes to eradicate the usage of communist iconography and Nazi symbology, including the swastika and the red star.

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Mar 21 2017, 9:59pm

The resurgence of fascism has been much in the news recently as governments the world over slide ever rightward, but in Hungary—whose own far-right president faces reelection in 2018—parliamentarians think they have struck upon a solution that will eradicate the scourge of nationalist totalitarianism once and for all: changing the labels on Heineken beer.

For lawmakers in the ex-Soviet republic, Heineken's red star logo is a bit too reminiscent of the "branding" of their one-time communist overlords. Now, Prime Minister Viktor Orban is hoping to censure the company, telling it to change its logo or face millions of dollars in fines.

The move is just the latest and most high-profile in a recent push to eradicate Soviet symbols from Hungarian life—symbols which, thanks to Hungary's tragic history, include both communist iconography and Nazi symbols like the swastika. Hungary-watchers have noted that the Prime Minister's crusade against tyranny—which he describes as "economic patriotism" and a "moral obligation"—seems always to target foreign-owned companies, and most often involves steep fines or special taxes.

The specific targeting of Heineken is seen by many as retribution against the company following its recent trademark victory in Romania. Courts in the country's Transylvania region—which is predominantly ethnic-Hungarian—recently sided with the Dutch brewer, finding that a local beer popular with the area's Hungarian population infringed on Heineken's trademark. The move led to boycotts among Hungarians and has made the beer company seriously unpopular in the region.

The brand's iconic star has been appearing on bottles since the late 18th century, well before communists swept through Eastern Europe, but in an unfortunate branding move, they did make the star red in the 1930s. Still, the star is not believed to have anything to do with any political ideologies, but is a common brewers' symbol dating to medieval times.

MUNCHIES has reached out to Heineken for comment on the matter but has not yet received a response.

So far, Heineken is safe. The Hungarian parliament just started debating censuring the brewery on Monday, but if the legislation does pass, Heineken's representatives in Hungary may face jail time on top of penalties of nearly $7 million, although not before an inevitably lengthy battle through the European courts.

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