Conscious of the success of the sponsorship arrangements in recent Presidencies, and that this has very much become the usual practice, the Government took the view that the Presidency offers a valuable and important opportunity for Irish business to promote what is best about Ireland, in particular in the economic, trade and tourism areas.
The main role of the Presidency is to advance the agenda of the European Union but it is also accepted that each Presidency takes the opportunity to promote its own country widely. It would be remiss of the Government if it did not maximise the exposure that Ireland will gain from hosting the Presidency, which may well be the last of its kind. Sponsorship will help develop a wider ownership in, and involvement with, the Presidency.
We have, in particular, modelled our approach on that applied by the very successful Danish Presidency by inviting offers of sponsorship from companies. All sponsorship will be in the form of goods and services — no cash sponsorship will be considered.
A number of categories lend themselves to a sponsorship arrangement — transportation, catering and the provision of IT-telecommunications equipment. Similar categories have been sponsored during previous Presidencies. In this context, my Department contacted the various umbrella groups for business in Ireland, such as the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, the Irish Hotels Federation and the Society of the Irish Motor Industry to outline the sponsorship possibilities.
I am happy that the following companies have agreed to become sponsors of the Presidency: Eircom, Audi, Tipperary Natural Spring Water and Kerrygold. Eircom and Audi between them will supply goods and services worth approximately €5 million. Tipperary Natural Spring Water will supply its product free of charge at all ministerial level meetings in Ireland and for the two summits in Brussels, while Kerrygold will supply its products free of charge for every Presidency lunch and dinner in Ireland and in Brussels. It is difficult, at this stage, to give an indication of the precise value of these sponsorships.
Such is the interest in sponsoring the Presidency that negotiations are still ongoing with several similar high calibre companies. I am also encouraged by the inquiries from smaller regional companies and organisations who are interested in sponsoring events in their respective localities. This shows the Presidency touches many parts of the country.
I am confident that, when negotiations are complete, not only will the cost of hosting the Presidency be significantly reduced but there will be a framework in place which will maximise the exposure of Irish companies and products to a wider European and international audience. This can only be of benefit to the country. Prior to entering these sponsorship agreements, all offers of sponsorship were, and continue to be, presented to the interdepartmental Presidency planning group, under the chairmanship of my Department, for consideration.