Following enlargement on May 1, an official from the Slovenian sports ministry tells EURACTIV how the country has been getting on with projects under the European Year of Education programme.
Zoran Verovnik, the Undersecretary for International Relationships at the Slovene Ministry of Education, Science, is also a national co-ordinator for European Year of Education through Sport projects. In an interview with EURACTIV he talks about his country’s flagship project, “Hurray, it’s leisure time” – aimed at getting young people involved in sports activities outside the school timetable. Although there was a lot of paperwork to plough through, Verovnik says that he was happy to be able to liaise effectively with the Commission’s Sports Unit. In particular he believes that high level sport and sport for all are interconnected and that sport is an effective tool for overcoming discrimination and promoting multicultural dialogue.
What do you feel is the significance of EYES for EU policy on sport?
Sport is a multi-sectoral social activity linked with health, social values, tradition, environment. it is a tool for overcoming discrimination and an effective instrument for dialogue between different cultures, religions or even “civilisations” if you like. I haven’t seen so far any demonstrating antiglobalist in the area of sport. I think EYES brings all that positive energy sport has to all the participating bodies and organisations from the member states, and my sincere wish is that sport finally finds a proper place in the constitutional documents.
What do you think of the fact that EYES uses professional sports to promote amateur activities? Is this at all problematic?
To use professionals and elite athletes to promote the campaign is welcome. Sport is interconnected and you cannot separate high level sport from sports recreation and sport for all. There are only certain aspects which are different, as well as the grounds on which each of these two large sports areas should be understood and treated. We have always spoken about the European dimension of sport. I believe we should safeguard the so called European Model of Sport.
How many applications for projects have you had? What kind of administration problems have you had?
As an accession country, Slovenia was only allowed to participate in the second and the third rounds of the public call for proposals of the EYES 2004. Since many of the interested organisations first decided to call our National Co-ordinating Body [responsible for co-ordinating European Year of Education through Sport projects] and to check whether it was at all feasible to get through with their applications, certain applicants did not even submit their application after they had learned that Slovenia had consumed all its available funds from the indicative scale from June 30, 2003.
So, in total we had five applications for the second round and two applications for the third round. Since sport in Europe had for the first time a chance to participate in a public call for proposals of the European Commission it was difficult for us to cope with all the paperwork necessary to be done prior to the submission of the applications. As for myself, I had to do a lot of reading and consultations with the Commission Sports Unit – who have always been very friendly with us – in order to understand the entire procedure and to be able to help other National Co-ordinating Body (NCB) members. Fortunately almost everyone speaks English in Slovenia.
How many and which EYES projects does Slovenia have up and running and why have you chosen the particular target you have set yourselves?
I believe it is difficult to say for any EU Member State exactly how many projects they have or they participate in, since there are two lines which are not connected between them: one direct through the NCB, which collects national applications and sends them to Brussels, and the second one in which sports and other organisations can participate as a partner in the so called pan-European projects (there should be at least eight member states) and for which they get financial support through the main co-ordinator of th e pan-European project. So far we are sure to have one project from the second round to be accepted by Brussels on the proposal of the NCB, and four other project where Slovenia is a partner to pan-European initiatives. Our national project which was selected has a broad national support, and it is supported also by our Minister of Education, Science and Sport Dr Slavko Gaber. It is aimed at the sports activity and at how young people spend their leisure time outside the regular school timetable, i.e., in the afternoons, at weekends and especially during school holidays when most children do not know what to do with themselves.
How will you measure the success or failure of your project?
We shall measure it through the participation of young people in our project called “Hurray, it is leisure time”, and the feedback by a special inquiry, as the project is being assessed and its results evaluated a the end. We believe that the idea of the project cannot fail, it only can have a good or a less good but still positive result.
Do you think EYES has been organised in the most effective way?
The EYES project has also been something new for the Sports Department within the Commission as this is the first time they have done it. I am very thankful to all those who started the idea and who supported it throughout its growth. Of course, several things could be better and I am sure they will be much improved next time we have a European Year of Sport.