During its first official visit to the Czech Republic, a Slovak delegation led by Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda was tought a true diplomatic lesson by Czech Prime Minister Miloš Zeman.
"I ask our Slovak friends, please don't ruin the taste of your consumers with Slovak beer," Zeman reportedly said at an October 7 meeting with businessmen from the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Zeman said that beer from the northern Slovak city of Poprad was good only for soaking dentures in. He proposed that Slovaks import Czech beer instead of drinking their own domestic brands.
His statements provoked a storm of protests from Slovak beer brewers and business professionals. Michal Pramuk, the chairman of the Slovak Association of Beer Brewers (SZVPS), said on October 11 that the association "vociferously protests against" Zeman's words.
Pavel Jurčík, the head of the assaulted Poprad brewery, said that although he has worked with the company for 40 years, he has never seen a brewer named Zeman. "Zeman may have been furious because he couldn't find Czech beer during his summer stay in the [High] Tatras, as all Czech brands were removed by competition from the region," Jurčík said.
Zeman's beer blunder, however, has provoked only playful reactions from top Slovak officials. "I think that you could not have done more for [the promotion] of Slovak beer," Dzurinda reportedly told Zeman at the meeting.
According to the Czech news agency ČTK, three Slovak breweries are on the verge of bankcruptcy and up to 1,200 people could lose their jobs, if the annual import quota of Czech beer to Slovakia is not reduced. Currently, Czech brewers export 532,000 hectoliters per year to Slovakia, while Slovaks are asking that the quota be pushed back to 220,000-250,000 hectoliters.