Prague - A plain sugar cube will become a symbol of the Czech Republic's European Union presidency lasting from January 2009 until June 2009.
Starting Thursday, Czech TV viewers will have a chance to see a government-sponsored video-clip, which aims to draw interest in the EU among Czechs and which features the sugar cube.
PM Mirek Topolánek and Deputy PM for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra presented the video-spot and the Czech presidency logo on Thursday.
The campaign will cost CZK 12 million and it will last until the last day of the Czech presidency. Billboards promoting the Czech government´s presiding over the EU are to appear across the country on Friday.
A (sweet) challenge
So why the sugar cube? It is a typical "Czech made" product, the government argues, and it is believed that it was invented by a Swiss born sugar-house director Jakub Kryštof Rad who came to a small town of Dačice, south Bohemia from Vienna.
Because of the mixed nationality of Jakub Kryštof Rad, a sugar cube is an ideal symbol for both Czechs as well as Europeans, explained Deputy PM Vondra.
The main slogan of the campaign Evropě to osladíme (literally "We will make it sweet for Europe") defies translation as it centers on an idiom, meaning of which is to give someone (Europe, in this case) a hard time.
When asked if the slogan is meant to be provoking, PM Topolánek did not exclude the possibility, although a government spokeswoman later played down the idea, suggesting it should be understood mainly in a positive way.
The video-clip portrays 7 well-known personalities, 4 men and 3 women.
Among the celebrities are internationally respected architect Eva Jiřičná, top model Tereza Maxová, hockey player Jaromír Jágr and football goalkeeper Petr Čech, all of whom have excelled at home and abroad.
All the protagonists play with a sugar cube in their own way. While Jaromír Jágr is shooting the sugar cube with the help of a tea spoon at goalie Petr Čech who catches it, architect Eva Jiřičná is constructing a building from the sugar cubes while top model Tereza Maxová "committs a sin" by swallowing one cube with a guilty smile.
Vondra: We have to be realistic
Both PM and Deputy PM say the celebrities are to lighten the tough situation the European Union happens to be in right now.
The Czech Republic is going to chair the EU at a time when the Union's institutional reform has stalled, the European Commission is to undergo a major change and European Parliament elections are to be held.
"We cannot expect any major reform to take place. We have to be realistic," stated Deputy PM Vondra.
"We feel it is a big chalenge to raise interest among Czechs," added PM Topolánek. The main tasks of the Czech EU presidency are to make Czechs identify more with the EU and to draw interest in the Czech Republic abroad.
"We have been members of the EU for four years, and during the whole time we have been perceiving it [EU] with scepticism. We would like to follow the Irish and the Danish who know how to identify with the EU and at the same time they keep their own views and identity," said PM Topolánek.
Vondra highlighted that the campaign follows the typical Czech features - "originality, humor, sense of self-irony and self-confidence."
However, what might appear at first sight as a witty pun and celebration of a confidence of a small nation in the middle of Europe, may be carrying a deeper meaning as well.
It is no secret that the Civic Democratic Party, a senior party of the governing coalition, is rather lukewarm towards the EU. In addition, Czech President Václav Klaus who is a chairman emeritus of the party, is well known for his outright hostility towards the European integration. One of the phrases he has been credited with in the past, is a warning that small countries like the Czech Republic may lose their identity in the EU "like a sugar cube dissolving in a cup of coffee".
The month of November will see the second phase of the campaign, the main slogan of which is still a secret.