News 28.01.2020

German government to refrain from controversial corporate sponsorship during German EU Presidency

  • politics and law
  • Sugar, fat & salt

The German government has announced that it will not have corporate sponsorship for the upcoming German EU Council Presidency which will begin in July 2020. Last year, foodwatch had criticised Coca-Cola's sponsorship of the Romanian EU Council Presidency.

"The Federal Government has, in principle, decided not to accept sponsorship for measures within the framework of the EU Council Presidency." This was stated in an answer to a parliamentary question by the Left Party in the Bundestag. foodwatch welcomed the decision and calls on the German Presidency to take this opportunity at the helm of the European Union to put in place clear rules on corporate sponsorship in the European Union.

Not having sponsorship is the only right decision. Now the German government must use the opportunity of the German Council Presidency to create binding rules for corporate sponsorship in Europe.
Thilo Bode Director of foodwatch International

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates every six months among the 28 EU Member States. Germany will take over from July this year. In 2019, foodwatch called in an open letter on the then President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the Romanian Prime Minister to immediately stop Coca-Cola's partnership with the Romanian EU-Presidency and insisted on the need for clear rules for future Presidencies in order to ensure that potential conflicts of interest are effectively and transparently avoided. This demand has been supported by more than 70.000 signers of an email petition.

European Ombudsman calls for guidance on commercial sponsorship

After receiving inadequate responses, foodwatch took the case to the European Ombudsman. In her answer the Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly made it clear that “the Presidency is part of the Council, and must operate in a neutral and impartial manner”.  In October 2019, the European Parliament also voted by a large majority for guidelines by the Council to promote financial transparency and independence of the EU Council presidencies.

Companies have been sponsoring the EU Council Presidency for years: in 2018, for example, Austria has been sponsored by Audi and the insurance group VIG, Bulgaria by the Association of the Bulgarian Beverage Industry and BMW. Coca-Cola had already supported the Polish Presidency in 2011. Among other things, the group supplied 140,000 litres of beverages for the meetings. At the same time, the EU Food Information Regulation was adopted and an EU-wide mandatory nutritional labelling in traffic light colours was prevented.