I came accross an interesting element of the new Portuguese (PT) EU Presidency website. Besides the fact that a nice framework was obviously let be run by someone with a certain lack of taste (see selection of pictures), there is for me a bizzare presentation of private sponsors.
The PT EU Presidency website lists the following “official sponsors”: Audi, Vodafone, HP, Microsoft, Sony, Galp Energia, Grupo Sumol, Delta Cafes and SIVA (Grupo SAG). I have to admit I have never spent lots of time thinking about this, but I thought that the Presidency is somehow the opportunity to promot national industries during the numerous meetings that the Presidency hosts in the home country. In the case of PT this seems not to be the case.
Before making the political point, let’s do a bit of comparison. The Luxembourg EU Presidency website (January – June 2005) does not list any. The UK EU Presidency website (July 2005 – December 2005) does not list any. The Austrian EU Presidency website (January 2006 – June 2006) does not mention any. The first one to mention sponsors, in the recent times, is the Finnish EU Presidency (July 2006 – December 2006). In this case the sponsors were: the Finnish Forest Foundation, Volvo Auto Oy Ab, Helsinki Water and Yleisradio Oy. The German EU Presidency (had three sponsors on the website: Audi, Mercedes and Volkswagen – with the explanation that these companies provided the fleets for the delegations coming to the meetings.
The Portuguese website does not include any explanation or clarification of what the sponsors would be donating. And while it could be somehow tolerated that a company offers water, coffee, cars to the Presidency and this is done transparently and distributed equally among the meetings, it is simply strange to have official sponsors like Microsoft, Sony, HP…
Now to a more substantial issue. The EU Council Presidency is an important part of the EU decision-making, sitting on the top of the agendas and legislative acts. So, how come that Presidencies have corporate sponsors of the size of Microsoft, which is under investigation by the European Commission because of potential further competition rules infringement. Is in such a case sponsorship acceptable?
And how would the governments of member states react if the European Parliament would find corporate sponsors for the plenary meetings in Strasbourg (German carmakers might be happy to shuttle 785 MEPs) and the European Commissioners would fly around with Air France.