15th Aug 2020

Weapons makers, multinationals among top beneficiaries of EU regional funds

The EU commission has tried to defend the rationale of its regional policy after a new database put together by investigative journalists revealed that corporations such as IBM and Coca-Cola are on the recipient list, together with weapons makers Honeywell, EADS and Dassault, big pharmaceutical companies and chain supermarkets.

"Cohesion policy brings significant benefits to the poorer regions of the EU, but is also benefiting the whole of Europe," EU regional policy commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a press release issued hastily on Tuesday (30 November) after the Financial Times and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism published a centralised database of EU funds recipients.

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  • Coca Cola is one of the recipients of EU regional funds (Photo: chicco)

Member states are required to publish the names and amount of the beneficiaries online, but the FT/BIJ effort is the first one to put all the data together in a searchable format, translated into English and with figures both in the national currency and in euros.

Regions and government companies in charge of building roads, railway tracks or sewage systems gobble up most of the money, but corporations also pocket fairly large sums of the €347 billion to be paid out by the EU during 2007-2013.

US computer giant IBM is the largest of the corporate recipients, with over €24 million pocketed in various countries and projects. Out of this sum, €15.6 million are allocated to a service centre in Wroclaw, southern Poland, another €2.6 million for a similar centre in the Czech Republic and €985,000 for one in Hungary.

In Italy, the local branch of the American company receives €3.7 million for developing a "bio-informatics" lab and "e-business platforms" for small and medium enterprises in the fields of tourism, cultural heritage and agri-food.

In the Netherlands, IBM has partnered with two other firms in a pilot project co-financed by the EU to the tune of €646,542 and aimed at reducing the energy consumption of 500 households by 14 percent. One of the applications involves a power display allowing residents to monitor the exact energy consumption of each electric device.

The Spanish region of Valencia is also boosting IBM sales with EU money, as it acquired servers and memory disks produced by the company to the tune of €638,820.

Portugal's Greencyber company specialised in biodiesel is receiving €23 million of EU funding for its plant in the southern region of Alentejo which uses soy and sunflower from Brazil, Angola and Mozambique to produce the low-polluting fuel. Biofuels are however controversial as the crops used take up precious land which could feed the local population, especially in African countries.

US aerospace technology maker Honeywell receives €4.2 million for its research and development centre in the Czech Republic. On its website, Honeywell Czech Republic advertises itself as manufacturing control technologies for buildings, homes and industry; power generation systems and aerospace products and services. The latter category includes guidance systems for missiles and other "guided weapons."

Honeywell is also notorious for the cluster bombs it produced in the second half of the last century.

Meanwhile, Europe's aerospace giant EADS - the constructor of Airbus planes - also gets regional funding to boost employment: €1.5 for its Polish factories, €1.1 for the Spanish ones and €750,000 for the French development of anti-lightning protection of airplanes.

Nokia Siemens Networks, sued by Iranian dissidents for having supplied the regime in Tehran with technology allowing mobile phones to be tracked down and wire-tapped, got €3.1 million for "diversification of the IT center in Wroclaw by introducing innovative products" and another €900,000 for "innovation and strategic projects" in Portugal.

Still in France, €131,250 of EU funds go to the south-western region of Aquitaine for "optimisation of the industrial management of Dassault MRP2 subcontractors." Dassault is the producer of the French Raphale fighter jets. Another €20,174 are claimed by Dassault for "advanced manufacturing systems" in the north-Italian region of Piemonte.

Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) receives €1.8 million for its plant in northern France where they develop a way to "increase the lyophilisation capacity of vaccines" - a method of drying pharmaceuticals by freezing the material and then warming it in a vacuum.

The world's biggest pharma company, Pfizer, also taps EU funds - €196,352 for projects in Belgium dedicated to "team culture," gender equality and career development.

German discount supermarket chain Lidl is set to receive almost €1 million for "improving employability" in Spain, the Czech Republic and Belgium and installing solar panels on one of its buildings in France.

Meanwhile, Swedish popular furniture manufacturer Ikea also gets a little EU help to the amount of €1.2 million for opening up a call centre in the eastern German region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

US soft drink giant Coca-Cola is present on the list, with €902,071 allocated for upgrading its production lines in Hungary and Estonia, as well as training German staff. A Belgian project is mentioned as well, but no figure is made available.

Along with Coca-Cola comes fast food icon McDonalds, charging EU taxpayers €59,708 for "further development" of its Swedish and Spanish staff.

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