The Council of the European Union has responded to a foodwatch complaint criticising EU sponsoring partnerships. It clarifies that "the Presidency has the duty to be neutral and impartial". However only accepts responsibility if events happen in Brussels, in the premises of the Council - not in the Member States, the Council explained. foodwatch and more than 70.000 signers of an email petition had criticised that the Romanian Presidency of the EU took sponsorship from a number of "platinum partners" including Coca-Cola in the first half of 2019.
foodwatch does not accept that the Council of the European Union has gone far enough to respond to the demand for rules to be put in place to stop the sponsorship of the EU Presidencies. It is not enough that the Council will accept responsibility to be "neutral and impartial" only if the meetings are happening on their premises. An EU Presidency lasts 6 months and meetings happen both in the Member States and in Brussels.
No matter where or at what type of meeting: If an average European citizen sees the EU flag next to the logo of Coca-Cola, BMW or Google – there is only one message that comes out: Corporate Influence inside the EU. It is now time to step up to the responsibility and put an end to corporate sponsorship.Director of foodwatch International
Clear rules for future Presidencies needed
Earlier in the year, foodwatch had criticised Coca-Cola's partnership with the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. In an open letter, which went online and was supported by more than 70.000 people, foodwatch for an immediate end to Coca-Cola's partnership with the Romanian EU-Presidency and to put in place clear rules for future Presidencies to ensure that potential conflicts of interest are effectively and transparently avoided. After little or no response, foodwatch took the case to the European Ombudsman. The Ombudsman took on the complaint in July 2019 and contacted the Council. Since then the Council responded in October 2019.
foodwatch continues to push for an end to corporate sponsorship
There was nothing in the letter to allay the concerns of foodwatch that these sponsored events are surely aimed at promoting the sponsors brand so as to directly or indirectly influence the Member States’ views or behavior. If this is not the case, then what reason can be given for such sponsorship? As foodwatch we do not accept that neutrality and impartiality stops in Brussels or with only certain types of meetings. It is now time to step up to the responsibility and adopt clear rules on financial transparency and independence of Presidencies and an end to corporate sponsorship. This is what foodwatch wrote back to the Ombudsman in November 2019 and is now awaiting the decision and hopefully recommendations to the Council to take action.