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19th Sep 2021

Portugal's EU presidency marks return of corporate sponsors

Corporate sponsorships are popping up again with the new Portuguese EU presidency, amid demands for it to stop.

The move is a departure from the previous presidency under Germany, which refused to have corporate labels associated with the EU.

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"Here we go again," said transparency campaigner Vicky Cann from the Brussels-based NGO Corporate Europe Observatory.

"After a short halt in accepting corporate sponsorship by the German presidency, the Portuguese presidency is back to the bad old ways of plastering corporate logos on its official website," she said in an email on Thursday (21 January).

Calls for it to stop have in the past also been made by the EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly, who warned of reputational damage.

But the Portuguese appear unfazed, noting on their website that the running costs of an EU presidency "are significant."

Asked how much, it did not respond to repeated emails by this website.

It also did not explain why it needed the in-kind contributions of such firms given the virtual nature of day-to-day briefings due to the current coronavirus pandemic.

Europe's largest paper company The Navigator Company is the latest to sign up, following Delta Cafes and food producer Sumol+Compal.

The Navigator Company has been accused of greenwashing by climate activists.

Among them is João Camargo, an environmental engineer and climate change researcher with a PhD at the University of Lisbon.

"It is pure greenwashing," Camargo told EUobserver, when asked what it means having The Navigator Company sponsor the EU Portuguese presidency.

The Navigator Company has some 120,000 hectares of eucalyptus in Portugal.

The monoculture plantations are also prone to fire. In 2017, close to 45,000 hectares were burned, killing some 66 in what has been described as Portugal's deadliest fire.

"A few years ago they were (with the forest fires) ... pretty damaged in the public image," he said, saying the company was deeply embedded in the Portuguese government.

"Recently they have engaged in a massive pressure with media, with sponsorships," he added.

Its business model is based around growing, extraction and then moving onto other areas. They claim to be carbon neutral.

"They were the highest industrial greenhouse-gas emitters in Portugal, if we don't count the forest fires," said Camargo.

The Navigator Company will be handing out notebooks and pads with the logo of the presidency.

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