End EU Council sponsorship deals now!
For more than 15 years, member states holding the EU Council presidency have accepted sponsorship deals with some of Europe's biggest companies.
Coca-Cola, BMW, and other big corporates have been sponsoring the EU Council Presidency for years and this shoddy practice continues until today. The Portuguese Government has accepted sponsorship from three companies for its current Council Presidency, including the distributor of PepsiCo in Portugal (sumol + compal), and The Navigator Company, Europe’s largest paper products company which has been associated with monoculture plantations and forest fires in Portugal, and land-grabbing in Mozambique.
This is unacceptable. How can EU governments be signing deals with companies whose products are in direct contradiction with the stated aims of the EU? The EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy, the EU Cancer Plan all recognise that what we consume has direct effects on health and the environment – and yet the companies producing sugar-filled soft drinks are being actively promoted by our decision-makers. Other deals in recent years have been with fossil fuel companies, car manufacturers, and Big Tech.
Last year, a foodwatch complaint to the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly was a success: she agreed that these deals with companies were a reputational risk to the EU and that guidelines should be put in place.
But after six months, our 27 member state governments have not agreed any guidelines and seem set on weakening the already-problematic proposal that is on the table.
We want to make it easy for them. The only guideline needed is NO SPONSORSHIP deals between governments holding the EU Council Presidency and companies.
We are calling on the Prime Minister of the current EU Council Presidency, António Costa of Portugal, and all member states’ ambassadors to the EU to do the right thing and ban all future sponsorship deals. Please take action and send a clear message to them all before any more deals are signed.
UPDATE: 25 March 2021
"Finally, the sponsorships. Of the many I have witnessed, I know of only one European presidency that said it excluded sponsorships. By itself, having the EU Ombudsman take a contrary view does not change the law. Our decision was to keep them to a minimum. Yes, the coffees, some juices and the PPUE booklets constitute donations in kind from Portuguese companies. To think that this fact allows any ability to put pressure on our diplomacy and foreign policy would reveal an enormous ignorance of what these are. But it is worth taking more time to reflect on the different modalities, legitimate and illegitimate, of the relationship between companies and powers, and so I promise I will return to the subject."
We have followed up this action with renewed appeals to Portuguese Prime Minister Costa, the Secretary General of the Council, and the 27 Permanent Representatives of the member states based in Brussels.
Now a key Council working party will meet on 30 March. However, the proposal on the table is weak and does not propose a ban, so it is key that we let member state governments know our concerns about Presidency sponsorship deals before then. Please take action below.
UPDATE: 1 July 2021
Yesterday was the last day of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU. Over 66,000 people have joined foodwatch, Corporate Europe Observatory, and Climáximo in condemning the sponsorship used by the Portuguese Government and asking for clear guidelines to ban the future use of private sponsorship for EU Presidencies.
Earlier this week, new guidelines were agreed by the EU Council but unfortunately they are very weak. Member states have been unable to disassociate themselves from corporate interests and implement a ban. They instead believe that transparency is enough. However, while transparency is essential, it is not enough to avoid conflicts of interest. The Slovenian Presidency, which has now taken over, has released a list of seven partners for their Presidency including alcoholic beverage and juice producers, paper manufacturers, and cyber security companies.
Foodwatch and Corporate Europe Observatory will not stop putting pressure on member states to renounce private sponsorship. The German Presidency in 2020 was sponsorship-free and there is no reason why others should not follow. Watch this space!
Text of the email action
Dear Prime Minister Costa,
No place for corporate sponsorship of EU Council Presidencies
I am writing to ask you to deliver a full and complete ban on all future corporate sponsorship of EU Council Presidencies during the Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council. I am very surprised to see that private companies are associated as sponsors or even “partners” to Council Presidencies and am very concerned about the obvious risks of conflicts of interest.
In response to a complaint from foodwatch the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has highlighted the “reputational risks” that such deals provoke and she demanded new EU Council guidelines.
In my view these guidelines must state clearly that there is no place for corporate sponsorship of EU Council Presidencies. Presidencies should not be doing such deals, corporate logos should not be on official EU Presidency websites, and businesses should not see Presidency events and activities as a PR opportunity.
The decision of the preceding German Presidency of the Council to reject sponsorship deals has been warmly welcomed. A ban on future sponsorship deals will send a clear message to the public that, on this issue, the EU Council chooses to prioritise the public interest over corporate interests, and integrity over controversy.
Please use your Presidency to agree to new Council guidelines which clearly state that there is no place for corporate sponsorship of EU Council Presidencies.