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Czech government PR video backfires

Latest update : 2008-09-10

The government in Prague is trying to get its people excited about taking over the EU presidency next year, but its first PR effort seems to be backfiring.

The Czech government has launched a splashy ad campaign to publicize the Czechs' presidency of the European Union, which starts on Jan. 1, 2009 - but their initial effort has run into problems.

A new television ad designed to promote the country's EU presidency is causing controversy among the Czechs. The ad centres on a sugar cube, and a very ambivalent slogan.

The sugar cube was invented in the town of Dacice, now part of the Czech Republic, in 1843. Czechs are proud of the invention - even if it was actually a Swiss inventor, Jacob Christoph Rad, who came up with the idea.  

So it's the humble sugar cube that is the star of the government's 30-second clip. The ad features Czech celebrities sitting around a conference table. Hockey legend Jaromir Jagr starts by flicking a sugar cube at former goalkeeper Petr Cech. Other adventures await the cube before it ends up in the coffee of conductor Libor Pesek.

And it’s here that the slogan appears: "Evrope to osladime." Literally, the phrase means "We'll make things sweeter for Europe," but in common usage it means something more like "We’ll give Europe a taste of its own medicine."

Despite themselves being members of the government coalition, the Christian Democrats were the first to speak out against the campaign. "In Czech, this slogan has a negative meaning. We shouldn’t be presenting Europe as an institution that we are trying to subvert," said party leader Jiri Cunek, who sees the hand of Mirek Topolanek’s centre-right Civic Democrats in the campaign.

The Civic Democrats (ODS) are ideologically close to the British Conservatives, and are often accused of Euroskepticism. The founder of the party, the current Czech president Vaclav Klaus, himself a notorious Euroskeptic, warned several years ago that Czech sovereignty and identity might dissolve in the EU like a sugar cube in a cup of coffee.

Date created : 2008-09-10