Tuesday

11th Aug 2020

EU to keep corporate sponsorship of presidencies

  • An INA service station in Croatia - one of the sponsors of Croatia's six-month presidency in the first-half of 2020 (Photo: INA, d.d.)

The EU appears unwilling to impose an outright ban on allowing corporate sponsorships of the rotating six-month EU presidencies.

The presidencies are overseen by individual member states and steer big EU-wide policy decisions by aiming to coordinate decision-making.

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Having them sponsored by corporate money is perceived as posing a risk to its reputation among the wider public.

But draft non-binding guidelines issued on 29 June say it is up to the member state, holding the presidency, to choose how they want to finance costs linked to things like informal meetings, seminars, and social and cultural events.

"Should the presidency decide to use private sponsorship to cover some costs, it should avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interests," notes the internal letter, drafted by the chief administrators of the Council, representing member states.

It also notes that the council's name or logo cannot be used by the sponsor in its activities.

The move comes despite Germany's current EU presidency announcing it will not use any sponsors.

"As a political sign of its independence, Germany's presidency of the Council of the European Union will, as a rule, refrain from any kind of sponsorship," it stated.

It said the decision was made to guarantee that the presidency won't be subject to outside influence.

Croatia headed the presidency in the first six months of 2020. Its presidency was in part sponsored by its country's national oil company, INA.

That sponsorship deal was announced on the heels of the European Commission's flagship policy on the Green Deal to fight climate change.

The Finnish presidency in the second half of last year was sponsored by BMW and Romania's presidency before it had carmakers Renault and Mercedes, and drinks multinational Coca-Cola.

Critics and pro-transparency groups say the perception of outside influence may help undermine the integrity of the European Union.

EU Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly drew similar conclusions.

In June, she said the presidency use of sponsorships risks "jeopardising the reputation of the council and the EU as a whole."

She then demanded the council provides some guidance on the issue, which resulted in the internal letter drafted on 29 June.

In a tweet, the Brussels-based NGO Corporate Europe Observatory, also said stronger rules are needed.

"It would send a much stronger signal to citizens that EU counties were prepared to distance themselves from corporate lobbies *if* the whole practice of presidency sponsorship were to be banned," it said.

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