The European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly is launching a probe on Finland’s BMW-sponsored six-month European Council Presidency.
BMW will be providing 100 vehicles for EU delegations in Helsinki. Corporate sponsoring of the EU presidency is a practice not yet regulated by EU law. The Romanian Presidency was sponsored by Coca-Cola.
The European Council told the Finnish News Agency (Yle) that sponsorship is “in principle” a matter for EU member states. Opposition to the sponsorship was initially raised by the Finnish Green Party MEP Heidi Hautala, raising questions of “conflict of interest.”
The Finnish left-wing government has made clear that no money is involved in the sponsorship deal, but a number of Finnish MEPs consider it politically damaging.
The Secretary of the Finnish Council Presidency, Anja Laisi, defended the BMW deal on the grounds that for security and scheduling reasons, transport for EU delegations must rely on cars. The Finnish Presidency also made clear that BMW will not have specially arranged opportunities to meet with government ministers in Helsinki as part of the deal.
BMW was one of three car-makers accused of breaching EU competition regulations by working together to delay the introduction of new emissions-reducing technologies in their vehicles. This has raised a number of questions, as the Finnish Presidency is expected to focus on climate change action.