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Budapest fumes at 'anti-Hungarian' Dutch brewer Heineken

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief-of-staff said a lawsuit won last month by Heineken that banned the use of a Hungarian-language brand was "undignified, unjust, and anti-Hungarian"

Hungary on Thursday slammed Dutch beer giant Heineken as "anti-Hungarian" as a trademark row in a part of Romania populated mainly by ethnic-Hungarians bubbled over.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief-of-staff said a lawsuit won last month by Heineken that banned the use of a Hungarian-language brand was "undignified, unjust, and anti-Hungarian".

"All Hungarians should unite against it," Janos Lazar told reporters in Budapest.

Last month a court in Targu Mures prohibited the Lixid Project brewer from using the "Csiki" brand name (pronounced "Cheeky") for its product range.

It said the name was too similar to Heineken's Romanian-language "Ciuc" brand which the multinational has produced since 2003.

According to Lazar the verdict complemented Romanian government policies that he said had pushed ethnic-Hungarian institutions and symbols like the Csiki brand "into a corner".

Romania's 1.2-million-strong ethnic-Hungarian community makes up some six percent of the population of around 19 million, making it the country's largest minority group.

Last week Lazar joined a call by Hungary's radical nationalist Jobbik party for Hungarian consumers and retailers to boycott the Dutch firm's product range.

Organisers of a Hungarian rock festival RockMaraton said Heineken's "Soproni" brand, manufactured in Hungary, will not be for sale at their event as a protest.

A spokesperson for Heineken Hungary, who also distribute the firm's "Gosser" beer and "Strongbow" cider brands, declined a request by AFP Thursday for comment.

The firm's head, Jose Matthijsse, told the Hungarian newspaper HVG last week that a boycott is "not the right way" to solve a dispute and could put jobs in Hungary at risk.

The leader of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania political party (UDMR), Hunor Kelemen, told AFP Thursday that the Dutch firm "made a mistake by using brute legal force rather than dialogue".

"But the row should remain a commercial one...politics shouldn't come into it," he said.

Lixid Project, which employs some 140 staff in the town of Sansimion in the predominantly ethnic-Hungarian Szeklerland area, has vowed to take the case to the European court.

In the meantime it says it will continue producing the beverage, but under the name "Banned Beer".

The Transylvania region in central Romania where the Szeklerland enclave is located was part of Hungary for centuries until the end of World War I.

Last year Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto stoked controversy by banning diplomats from attending Romanian national day celebrations on December 1.

That anniversary marks a 1918 mass assembly that urged the union of Transylvania with the kingdom of Romania.

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