EU: Finland Continues Corporate Sponsorship of EU Presidency
The new rotating president of the EU Council, Finland, is not planning to discontinue corporate sponsorships to cover part of the costs of the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.
Finland has made clear it has no intentions to even discuss with other member states the issue of EU Presidency countries accepting corporate sponsorships.
Finland took over as president of the council, the EU institution where national governments meet, from Romania on July 1, 2019.
In April, a group of 97 members of the European Parliament wrote a letter to then Finnish prime minister Juhu Sipila, asking for more transparency in the council.
They specifically asked Finland to refuse any corporate sponsorship and to “make a proposal to other member states that all future presidencies agree to such a rule”.
The sponsorship of the current and previous presidencies by automotive, software, and beverage companies, many of whom have an active interest in influencing EU decision-making, is politically damaging,” said the group of 97 members of the European Parliament in the letter, as per EU Observer.
Corporate sponsorship trend
Romania held the EU presidency in the first six months of 2019, and it was sponsored by carmakers Renault and Mercedes, and the multinational sugar-sweetened (and increasingly alcohol) beverage giant Coca-Cola.
The NGO Foodwatch criticised Romania for having accepted a sponsorship deal by Coca-Cola “in a time of major obesity problems and additional disease burdens such as type 2 diabetes”.
Further, in response to Dutch far-left MEP Dennis de Jong who sent the council parliamentary questions on the Coca Cola sponsorship the council said it could not answer.
Corporate sponsorship of the presidency of the council is not new, but it has in recent years become the rule rather than the exception.
At least eight states holding the presidency consecutively took sponsorship deals: the Netherlands, Slovakia, Malta, Estonia, Bulgaria, Austria, Romania, and now Finland.
A sponsorship agreement does not always involve money, but could also be provided in kind. BMW has made a hundred cars available to the Finnish presidency, for example.
Croatia plans to continue the trend
Croatia, which will take the baton from Finland on January 1, 2020, is already paving the way to continue this trend.
Its EU presidency action plan, adopted last April, noted that previous presidencies also used sponsors, and that Croatia planned to select sponsors as well.
That same month, a Croatian communications agency identified the presidency of the EU council as a business opportunity.
Croatian businesses have a huge opportunity to promote their own products through sponsorships of meetings and events,” one of the agency’s PR consultants wrote in a blog post titled “How to benefit from the Croatian Presidency of the EU Council?”