Andrej Kiska, the new president of Slovakia, has rejected the idea of reviving the long-defunct “Made in Czechoslovakia” label for both Czech-made and Slovak-made products. The comments came during an official two-day visit by the Slovak president to the Czech Republic at which a wide range of issues are being discussed with Kiska’s Czech counterpart Miloš Zeman and other political leaders.
The idea was approved last year – at least in words – by Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and then Czech Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok. Even though Czechoslovakia has not existed as a country since 1993, both Czechs and Slovaks have struggled in the ensuing years with degrees of ignorance regarding the existence of these two separate countries. Simply put, the logic went, since many people have no idea that Czechoslovakia no longer exists, and since that name has what marketing experts today might describe as relatively high “brand awareness” – why not make use of the “Czechoslovakia” label? After all, who doesn’t remember the famous “Made in Czechoslovakia” emblazoned across those yellow matchboxes? Then there are guns and rifles, tractors, china and glassware, and even pipe cleaning products.
The concept was supposed to find particular effectiveness in countries with which the former communist-era Czechoslovakia did business: Vietnam, Mongolia, and several countries in Africa. But it was always going to be a somewhat contentious idea. Labelling products as made in a country that does not exist faced potential legal hurdles. Not to mention the fact that under such a system, Czechs could presumably take the credit for Slovak made products and vice-versa.
There have been suggestions that President Kiska’s flat out rejection of the idea has something to do with the fact that PM Robert Fico ran against him in the country’s recent presidential elections. But Kiska’s talks with his Czech counterpart Miloš Zeman are centred on a far wider range of issues. For one, there is President Zeman’s concept of a Visegrad-wide security defence partnership. Other matters such as student exchanges, euro adoption, transport infrastructure – meaning strengthening motorway connections – and other measures designed to increase trade between the two now separate nations are also on the agenda.
Kiska, who is also due to meet with members of the Czech government during his first formal trip, described the current state of Czech-Slovak relations as excellent.