“We must struggle for a European Union’s sports framework programme”, said Attila Czene, State Minister for Sports of the Ministry of National Resources, at the informal meeting of Sports Ministers in Gödöllő. Council members discussed the role and funding of European sports, and the fight against doping.
“We wish to achieve a common result, which calls for a struggle with a sportsman’s determination,” Attila Czene said in response to the first member state speeches. According to the Minister of State, the Europe 2020 Strategy’s objectives cannot be met without creating a sports framework programme by 2014. So member states need to work out how much of their GDPs they want to spend on sports. Mr Czene also touched on the social role, and the importance of sports in everyday physical education.
Member states welcomed the Hungarian Presidency’s ambitions, and pointed out that sports should not “fall victim to the economic crisis.” In their speeches, they stressed that sports are vital to reach a better living standard, and have a major role in preserving health and promoting social inclusion, with special regard to migrant and disabled people. Several member states declared, “Although we live in an age of austerity measures, it would be symbolical in the present poor economic situation to succeed in establishing a European framework programme by 2014, which could provide financial support to sports.”
Focusing on finances
Some member states said it was more realistic to try to integrate sports in the existing funding mechanisms, as the Community’s budget is unlikely to be expanded in the period of economic consolidation. The best sources for sports would still be to use the Structural Funds, and the Social Fund. Many emphasised that such funding should be exploited to a greater extent as well as the Commission’s initiatives, like “Youth on the Move.”
Andrulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Youth and Sports, pointed out, “We have to be ambitious but realistic.” The Commissioner endorsed member states’ suggestions, and highlighted that priorities have to be set by member states, and not by the Commission. At the same time, she mentioned that the Lisbon Treaty also includes a chapter on sports, so the possibility to create a special sports fund, should not be rejected. “If we believe in sports, this is what we have to do,” she added.
Fight against doping
Similarly, to other parts of the world, one of the most daunting challenges for European sports is the fight against doping. Attila Czene highlighted that Europe is a 50 percent contributor to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) budget, but its influence in decision-making is much less. “In the Foundation Board (the supreme decision-making body) we are struggling for better, and more professional representation and continuity”, Attila Czene said adding that he would prefer representatives with more experience and longer mandates, and to have better representation of EU’s interests. Presently, the European Union has three representatives on the WADA Foundation Board (and the non-EU European states have two representatives). The proposal would extend their 18-month mandate to three years. Member states have already submitted a number of proposals in the issue, but Attila Czene claimed that a Council position is required, which will have to be prepared by the Polish Presidency.
The atmosphere of the meeting brightened when world champion Sarolta Monspart, held a presentation on physical exercise and encouraged ministers to do some gymnastics, so that they could experience the favourable physiological effects of sports.
At the follow-up press conference, Mr Czene summarised the meeting by saying the Presidency had achieved its goal by “learning in detail about the proposals of sports leaders from the EU’s 27 member states, which are indispensable for the EU to make well-grounded decisions on its sports policy.” The Minister of State also found the discussion on senior citizens’ sports, and the fight against doping useful.
Commissioner Andrulla Vassiliu, also talked about the meeting’s success, “Now it’s clear to me that informal meetings are much more constructive than formal ones.”
Prior to their informal meeting, sports ministers were given a special present: “a spectacular, exciting and emotional” film “about the most brilliant hungarian football star, Ferenc Puskás”.
Ministerial level presidency event, which will be the first one after the adoption of the COM Communication about the future sport policy.The meeting is going to have a joint part with the EU Sport Forum organized by COM.
Location: Royal Palace of Gödöllő
Address: Hungary 2100 Gödöllő, Gödöllői Királyi Kastély