The Czech PM says the European Commission president’s demand for food equality across Europe is “a good signal” and “the result of our endeavours”.
Senior politicians in the Czech Republic have been complaining for months about the sometimes marked disparity in the quality of foodstuffs sold in ex-communist states and those delivered to consumers in “Western” countries.
In August the Czech agriculture minister, Marian Jurečka, illustrated the poor deal domestic consumers were getting by holding up two very similar looking boxes of fish fingers. The difference was the ones sold in Germany contained more meat and cost less.
On Wednesday, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, addressed this issue in a broad-ranging “state of the union” address at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“In a union of equal consumers, there cannot be two classes of consumers. It is not acceptable that in some countries, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, products are sold that are of lower quality than those sold in Western countries, even when the packages and brands are the same.”
Mr. Juncker then referred to particular products that can leave the inhabitants of former Eastern Bloc states feeling short-changed.
“Slovaks don’t deserve less fish in their fish fingers. Hungarians don’t deserve less meat in their processed meat products. Czechs don’t deserve less cocoa in their chocolate. European law forbids such practices, and the national authorities in those countries need to do more to fight these illegal practices.”
The European Commission president’s words were immediately welcomed by the Czech prime minister, with Bohuslav Sobotka writing on Twitter that they were “the result of the endeavours of the Czech Republic and Slovakia” and a “good signal”.
The Czech leader also said he welcomed the European Commission chief’s support for cohesion between Eastern and Western member states and convergence within the EU.
Mr. Juncker’s trilingual speech touched on a whole range of other subjects and at one point he referred to the fact that Lithuania and Latvia would be marking the centenaries of their foundation next year.
However, Czechoslovakia was also founded in 1918, as the Czech MEP Pavel Telička reminded Mr. Juncker in Strasbourg.
“I am not offended that you have forgotten the Czech Republic as a country that will also be 100 years old next year. No offense taken.”