Corporate sponsorship of the EU presidency to continue despite outcry

Jon Stone

The controversial practice of picking corporate sponsors for the European Union's rotating presidency is to continue, despite an outcry from MEPs.

EU countries have been raising eyebrows by doing deals with increasingly controversial multinational corporations during their stints overseeing debates at the EU council.

Romania's presidency in the first half of 2019 was sponsored by Coca-Cola, with the US drinks giant's logo plastered over banners and signs at meetings. One council summit in Bucharest featured Coca-Cola branded bean bag chairs, and a fridge of free drinks plastered with statistics about the company's contribution to the economy.

Other sponsors of the council presidency have included car manufacturers, software companies, and other firms with vested interests in influencing EU policy.

But hopes that the incoming Finnish presidency, which took the helm this summer, might end the practice, were dashed after it picked German car manufacturer BMW as a sponsor - despite the firm being hit with a fine over its cars' diesel emissions earlier this year.

"We do not foresee any discussions of corporate sponsorship of EU presidencies with other member states," a spokesperson for the Finnish presidency told the EUobserver website.

The Finnish presidency has confirmed that BMW will be providing free cars for use by the presidency to transport members of delegations.

Around 100 MEPs wrote to the Finnish government in April calling for a ban on the practice, describing it as "politically damaging".

"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," the letter, signed by 97 representatives read.

The presidency of the EU council rotates between member states every six months. The country that holds the presidency chairs meetings of the EU council, which scrutinises EU legislation, and sets agendas and a programme of work for its six months.