Informal Sports Council
Muyters impatient for Commission communication
By Dafydd ab Iago in Antwerp | Friday 22 October 2010
Sports ministers, at an informal Council in Antwerp on 21-22 October, discussed the EU’s new competences in the field since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force. The participants, including Flemish Sports Minister Philippe Muyters, appeared impatient to see details of the forthcoming and “long-awaited” communication by the European Commission of its sport-related priorities and actions.
At the meeting, Muyters led a discussion on the role of the EU in the international fight against doping, particularly within the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). He presented a study on the implementation of the WADA code in the EU indicating considerable differences still exist between the EU member states. Ministers thus agreed on the need for more coordination when implementing the WADA code.
For her part, Education, Culture and Sports Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou stressed the need for the fight against doping to be among the priorities of the EU’s new sports agenda. Here, the Commission points to the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 165 committing the EU to protecting the physical and moral integrity of sports people. Another point for the EU is obtaining a stronger voice within the WADA. The Commission wants one representative of its own alongside one each of the current and future EU Presidency teams.
A further item for ministers to consider is recognition of sport qualifications within the European qualifications framework. The aim is to increase the number of highly qualified coaches able to operate in different international settings as well as to protect athletes’ physical and moral integrity. The Commission is calling for integration of sports qualifications in the national qualification frameworks and linking them to European frameworks.
In terms of finance, however, ministers and the Commission are less active. There will be no additional money to support so-called ‘mini-actions’ in the run-up to the next financial period, in 2014. There had been talk of some €2 million being available. “Nothing that will change the universe,” admitted an official.
More bureaucratically, the Commission talks of the current budget context not being “conducive” to new spending initiatives. “However, the preparatory actions preparing the way for sports programmes, which started in 2009, are still ongoing,” a Commission official explained to
Europolitics.The call for projects should take place in 2011. Work, though, will only be implemented in 2012 and 2013. In the framework of its 2010 preparatory action in support of sport projects, the Commission will finance transnational networks addressing legal, fiscal and funding-related aspects of voluntary activity in sport.
Minister Muyters, for the Belgian EU Presidency, concluded by stressing the need for greater cooperation with the Council of Europe. He invited the Council of Europe’s Deputy Secretary-General, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio. “We are going to cooperate more with the Council of Europe,” Muyters told
Europolitics.One area listed was the fight against doping. “But on specific EU points, the EU has to talk about this itself.”
The Sports Council proper will take place on 18 November in Brussels. n
Since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, on 1 December 2009, sport has become a formal EU competence. Article 165 of the treaty requires that the EU take further its actions in this field. Ministers and the EU have enthusiastically accepted the prospect of new powers and the Commission promises to set out its policy intentions in a communication at the beginning of December. Still, the Commission had originally hoped for a specific - funded - programme for sport under the current financial spending period till 2014. Now, though, it will not see any new money. The communication will thus only really pave way for a better and more substantial policy under the next financial perspectives.