European Union Funds Advertising of Dutch Gin
“Follow the Money” has uncovered a hidden scheme of European Union funding for advertising of Dutch Gin in the United States through subsidies.
SpiritsNL, the Dutch lobby group for importers and producers of liquor, has applied and secured a €1.5 million subsidy from the European Commission, intended for an advertising campaign in the United States. The campaign runs from 2018 to 2022 and will cost a total of €1.9 million with the affiliated companies supplying €400,000.
The aim of the advertising blitz funded by EU taxpayer money, is to counter decreasing demand for liquor in Europe through consumers in the U.S. The grounds for obtaining the subsidy are the claim that gin is an “agricultural product” and is thus eligible to use of information and promotion subsidies that have been created to promote European agricultural products.
The campaign involves several alcohol promotional activities, including point of sale marketing using the European Union logo and title, paying journalists to write articles about Dutch gin, taking part in trade fairs and paying brand ambassadors to host cocktail workshops.
This campaign is a complete violation of EU goals and a misuse of EU tax payers’ money. Europe is the heaviest alcohol consuming region in the world and runs programmes to tackle the massive alcohol burden. For example, in the Netherlands a National Prevention Agreement was formed with more than 70 civil society organizations last November, with the EU supporting the programme with funding. Subsidies for transnational alcohol companies illustrate serious policy incoherences and show why public trust in the European Commission is so low.
There has been no mention of this subsidy to promote Dutch distilled spirits in the US, in fact even the Ministry of Health of Netherlands seems unaware of the subsidy. The Ministry of Health has expressed their displeasure upon finding out about the subsidy.
Our Dutch policy aimed at combating problematic alcohol consumption does not include government support for the promotion of alcoholic beverages,” said Paul Blokhuis, the State Secretary for Health of Netherlands, as per Follow the Money.
In fact public health activists are also unaware about this subsidy. The Director of STAP called this subsidy “absurd”.
I suspect that even the Ministry of Health does not know this. It is very contradictory if, on the one hand, you invest more money in the prevention of alcohol problems, but at the same time keep this scheme in the air. It is good that this is now being reported. I hope something happens to it,” said Wim van Dalen, Director of STAP, as per Follow the Money.
How such a promotion went unnoticed by the Dutch Ministry of Health when Dutch Minister of Agriculture Carola Schouten must have ensured that European agricultural funds are properly provided by the implementing organization RVO (Rijksdienstvan Ondernemend Nederland) remains a question.
The Dutch State Secretary of Health Blokhuis has said the Netherlands is anyway not in favor of co-financing promotional activities by the EU. However since this subsidy exists the cabinet would rather see it go to finance programs to promote the consumption of healthy and sustainably produced food.
Together with his colleague Schouten van Landbouw, The State Secretary therefore argues in the upcoming evaluation of the promotion scheme that it should be limited to ‘subsidy for the promotion of sustainably produced and healthy agricultural products.’