Civil society organisations urge French Government to reject corporate sponsorship deals during its EU Council Presidency
Paris/Brussels/Amsterdam/Berlin, 23 September 2021: European civil society organisations call on the French EU Presidency to reject all forms of corporate sponsorship when it takes the helm of the European Union in January 2022. The international consumer organisation foodwatch, Brussel based Corporate Europe Observatory, and the French organisation Observatoire des Multinationales argue it is completely inappropriate that a government, in its role at the head of one of the key EU institutions, which has huge legislative and policy-making powers, could let private companies pick up the costs for some of its activities! Sponsorship, which allows corporations to promote their brands and products on the presidency website or to EU decision-makers, risks conflicts of interest, and is totally unacceptable.
"There can be no excuse for governments taking favours from corporations. If France needs food, drink, transport or any other kind of goods or services during its Presidency of the EU, then it simply needs to procure it by normal means and pay a fair price for it. These dodgy sponsorship deals must stop,” said Suzy Sumner from foodwatch international.
In a petition launched today, Corporate Europe Observatory, Observatoires des Multinationales, and foodwatch are calling on Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, Clément Beaune, Minister for Europe and Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes, the Secretary General of the French Presidency, to reject corporate sponsorship deals during the French Council presidency in 2022.
Companies have been sponsoring the EU Council Presidency for years. For example, sponsors of the Austrian Presidency (2018) included Audi and Microsoft; the Croatian Presidency (2020) selected INA, an oil company, and automobile producers Peugeot and Citroën. Coca-Cola supported the Romanian Presidency in 2019 as a ‘premium partner’ with its branding and products highly visible at meetings of ministers.
The Presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates every six months among the 27 EU Member States. On 1 January, France will take over the Presidency. Ahead of the French EU Presidency the Renaissance delegation in the European Parliament — a group of 23 primarily French MEPs within the Renew Europe group — has warned Paris against using corporate sponsorships during the French presidency. It said that the 2022 French Presidency should be “attentive to the public’s perception” and that it “should not resort” to private sponsorships.
Following the Coca-Cola involvement in the Romanian Presidency in 2019, foodwatch took a complaint to the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly and this led to a ruling that these deals with companies were a “reputational risk” to the EU and that guidelines should be put in place. Unfortunately, the guidelines that have been agreed within the Council are insufficient and do not go far enough to ensure that future presidencies will be free from sponsorship.