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‘Paris Plages’ refuses partnership with Coca-Cola

Loic Venance, AFP |People relax on the sand during the "Paris Plage" (Paris Beach) event on the banks of the river Seine in Paris on July 29, 2015

The Paris city council on Tuesday rejected a financial partnership with Coca-Cola to help fund its summertime Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) event during which sand beaches are set up along the River Seine in the French capital.


The decision, which denies giving Coca-Cola a virtual monopoly on beverage distribution at the event for up to three years, came after four days of debate that pitted an alliance among the Green Party, Communists, Left Front and Les Républicains (formerly the UMP) against the ruling Socialist Party, which called the decision “irresponsible”.

“Coca-Cola’s image, already tainted in 2001 by a €192 million racial discrimination case against African-Americans, is not compatible with the values Paris defends,” said Jérôme Gleizes, regional councilman for the Green Party, who called the partnership “unacceptable and incomprehensible”.

Paris announced an agreement with the American soda giant in July to sponsor the artificial beach scene, which would have contributed €170,000 per year to its operations in a partnership supported by the Socialist government of the current mayor, Anne Hidalgo. The Socialists argued that the Coca-Cola collaboration would have allowed the city to offer free activities to visitors and reduced costs.

But the Green Party said that a Paris Plages sponsorship would highlight “the contradiction between the national fight against obesity and an advertising opportunity handed out to the No. 1 producer of sugary, carbonated drinks”.

Sergio Tinti, a Communist Party representative, also denounced the sponsorship, calling it an example of the “acceleration of the privatisation of Parisian public space”.

For its part, the conservative Les Républicains voted against the partnership in the name of “transparency” after learning that there were “extremely troubling problems” concerning the financial management of the Paris Plages project.

The collective criticism comes just days after the regional financial authority (La chambre régionale des comptes) concluded an investigation into the project, denouncing on Friday its “irregular practices”, a “distorted financial record”, an overall “serious dysfunction” and “a lack of internal inspection”.

In 2013, Paris Plages cost almost €4.8 million, almost three times more than the €1.5 million estimated by City Hall. According to French monthly Marie Clarie, some 70% of the project's funding in 2012 was provided by sponsors, cafés (which pay a fee) and traders who set up their booths on the periphery, underscoring the importance of potential contributions from big-name financial partners like Coca-Cola.

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