Brussels plays down sports policy expectations

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With expectations running high regarding future EU action on sport, the European Commission warned that it cannot do everything and that the tools and funding at its disposal remain "very limited".

The Commission is aware of expectations regarding the EU executive's sport policy, said Jan Truszczynski, director-general of the Commission's directorate for education and culture, which is in charge of sport.

He was speaking on the fringes of the EU Sports Forum, which gathered different sport stakeholders in Madrid this week to discuss topics related to the EU's new competence on sport and its planned implementation.

"We should remember that the tools and funding at our disposal remain very limited. We cannot do everything with the same intensity and effectiveness. We need to prioritise," he said.

This is why in its upcoming policy document, the Commission is set to present a number of initiatives that "we think present a particular added value at EU level," Truszczynski continued.

Androulla Vassiliou, the EU's commissioner in charge of sport, agreed that "we cannot do everything," and stressed that the Commission should focus on supporting national action in the following areas: promoting fair play and fighting against doping, protecting young athletes, combating racism and violence, and promoting grassroot sport as well as lifelong amateur sport for all.

Commission proposals by end 2010

The Commission hopes to table a political framework for sport policy at EU level before the end of the year. The document will be followed by a tool to implement the policies and a proposal for a future EU sport programme.

The new programme will be prepared on the basis of experience gained from the sports preparatory actions being conducted from 2009-2011. The first, limited EU sports programme should follow these preparatory actions in 2012-2013, before a fully-fledged programme can begin with the EU's next long-term budget in 2014.

Truszczynski said that the Commission already had a view on how to implement the sports provisions of the Lisbon Treaty.

The informal ministerial discussions held this week alongside the Sports Forum show that "what we have in mind is to a large extent in line with what member states would like to see in the future EU sport policy," he explained. 

Member states want focus on social role of sport

According to Truszczynski, ministers are hoping that the Commission will put a special emphasis on the social and educational roles of sport. They would also like the Commission to address the financing of sports activities and ensure "properly functioning sport structures with a particular focus on volunteers and their action in the field of sport," he said.

"Many member states were also talking about the physical and moral integrity of sport and in that context, quite a lot of emphasis was put on the need to fight doping more effectively," he added.

Many also believe that the Commission should include protecting the fairness and openness of sports competitions in its current work, Truszczynski said.

Article 165 of the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in December 2009, gave the EU a soft competence on sport.

This means that the Commission will develop a specific EU sports programme, supported by a budget. The competence also allows for better promotion of sport in other EU policy areas and programmes, such as health and education.

The treaty provisions give the EU the opportunity to speak with one voice in international fora and vis-à-vis third countries. EU sports ministers will now also begin meeting in official Sports Council meetings.

  • 19-20 April 2010: Second EU sport forum in Madrid.
  • 21 April 2010: Informal meeting of EU sports ministers.
  • By end 2010: Commission communication on impact of Lisbon Treaty on sport. 
  • By end 2010: Commission draft decision on EU's sports programme and budget. 

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