Informal Sports Council
No comfort on financing Commission’s strategy
By Dafydd ab Iago in Budapest | Wednesday 23 February 2011
The EU’s sports ministers met in Gödöllö, near Budapest, to discuss future EU sports strategy. The meeting provided the first opportunity for them to respond informally to the European Commission’s January 2011 strategy document on sports policy. Also among the topics was establishing a Council work plan, which would set strategic and general objectives and priorities for the first 18-month cycle of trio Presidencies.
The informal meeting was the first exchange of views on “possible” future EU-level financing for sport projects. The Commission stresses that sports actions should be taken where the EU can actually make a difference and national action is not sufficient. Nonetheless, there was little comforting language from member states and the Hungarian Presidency in terms of financing “ambitious” future Commission actions in the field of sports. Hungarian State Secretary Attila Czene, responsible for sport, only spoke of using the informal meeting as a step towards getting member states to develop a working plan. The aim would then be to launch a sports framework programme by 2014. This would, said Czene, further widen the opportunities for European sports, both in terms of regulation and finance.
Later in the Presidency, a resolution will provide guidelines on Council work. It should propose setting up thematic working groups to focus on getting practical results on matters such as fighting doping, education, training and qualifications in sport, prevention of and fight against violence and intolerance. Also important is the economic dimension of sport, governance and integrity. Other topics on the ministers’ agenda at the informal Council included the EU’s role in the international fight against doping and sport for senior citizens.
Preceding the ministers’ informal Council was a two-day meeting of representatives of national, European and international sport organisations, also in Budapest. With only a shared EU competence in sports, the Commission has been keen to bring together organisations, such as the International Olympic Committee, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and European professional football and other sports associations and fans’ clubs.
“I am committed to strengthening the European dimension in sport,” said Sports Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou. She sees the informal Council and the sports forum as having helped identify priorities and agree on joint actions on the basis of the Commission’s proposals. In 2009-2010, the Commission provided more than €6 million to support almost 30 sport projects. In May, the Commission promises to launch a call for proposals for EU funding in support of anti-discrimination (in sport) projects. The Commission also aims, in 2012, to organise a major conference on sport agents as a follow-up to a 2009 study. Commission officials, however, are still uncertain as to what funding will be given to a future EU sports programme.