The Minister for Sports, Romain Schneider, intervened on 14 September 2015 before the European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) in Brussels to present the priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency in the field of sports. These include the promotion of physical and motor activities for young and very young children, the fight against manipulation of sports competitions, as well as the representation and coordination of the European Union within the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
At the beginning of his speech, Romain Schneider challenged the MEPs on the increasing risks of obesity and overweightedness in the European Union. Thus, 7% of national health budgets in the EU are spent each year to treat diseases related to obesity, said the Minister.
Obesity and overweightedness are now affecting young children, i.e. one third of children between 6 and 9 years, according to 2010 data. But the Minister still considers "more disturbing" the fact that the prevalence of overweightedness and obesity in children under 5 in industrialized countries rose by 8% in 1990 to 12% in 2010, and is expected to reach 14% in 2020.
That is why the Presidency has chosen to make the promotion of physical activities for very young children a priority explained Romain Schneider, who stressed the benefits of physical activity for children, namely improved endurance, muscle strength, speed, coordination, motor skills, mental well-being and self-esteem. Furthermore, children who play sports "tend to perform better academically, have fewer behavioural and discipline problems and are more attentive in class". The Presidency will also cover an aspect that is "still totally ignored", namely the promotion of physical and motor activities for very young children, that is to say of infants until the age of twelve months.
The Minister praised the "leading role" of the European Parliament and the parliamentary committee, that had emphasised as early as 2007 in a resolution on the role of sports in education, the need to encourage school and preschool children to practice a specific physical activity. According to Romain Schneider, "this is a constant concern at European level" and which is also mentioned in the current EU Work Plan for Sport for 2014-17 and that will inspire the conclusions of the EYCS Council on 23 November 2015.
The Minister then touched on another important matter for the Luxembourg Presidency, namely the representation and coordination of the European Union within the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The current system is based on the 2011 Council resolution which was to be evaluated by the end of 2015. Romain Schneider stressed the need for Europe to have "a strong voice" within WADA. Sports ministers had already had an exchange on the subject at an Informal Meeting in Luxembourg in July during which "no consensus" had been reached to change the current mode of representation. Many ministers had instructed the Presidency to improve EU coordination prior to anti-doping international meetings, explained Romain Schneider, who is one of the three EU representatives on its Board of Trustees until the end of year. He also called on Member States that have not yet adopted a national anti-doping code, in accordance with the Global Code, "to do so without delay".
The Minister then referred to the issue of dual career for athletes as a priority to enable them to reconcile their sports activities in the best way at a high level with a school or university education. Romain Schneider stressed the need for a European dimension, given the very high mobility of athletes in order to participate in competitions and find the best training conditions abroad.
The Luxembourg Presidency also wants to promote honest sports and exclude cheating and doping, insisted Romain Schneider, who added that since July, Luxembourg has been part of the 12 EU Member States who signed the Convention of the Council of Europe on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions. The Presidency will handle the two Council decision proposals (COM/2015/ 0084 and COM/2015/0086) on the signing the Convention on behalf of the Union as utmost priority, said the Minister.
Among the priorities, Romain Schneider has further cited the will to further improve the relations between public authorities and the sports movement and the economic aspects of sport. The Presidency will organize a conference in October entitled "The creation of growth, wealth and employment through sport" to be followed by a meeting of the Council Expert Group, announced the Minister.
During the debate that followed the intervention, MEPs welcomed the willingness of the President to focus on promoting physical activity for young children. However, several MEPs underlined the fact that sports falls within the competence of the Member States, calling for focus on the exchange of good practices. As for the fight against doping, German MEP Petra Kammerevert (S&D) encouraged creating common standards at European level via a Directive to show that this is a real crime.
In his reaction, Romain Schneider emphasized that sports has other values than competition, such as welfare or social integration. He also stressed the importance of policy coherence, giving the example of the Luxembourg plan "Eating healthier, moving more" in which all Ministers are involved.