The European Ministers for Sport met in Brussels on 24 November 2015 during the second day of the 'Education, Youth, Culture and Sport' Council. The Ministers adopted conclusions on the promotion of motor skills, physical and sport activities for children as well as conclusions aimed at strengthening the EU's position in the World Anti-Doping Agency. The Ministers also held a debate on the educational potential of sport for young people, including young migrants. Romain Schneider, who chaired the Council, described sport as a 'very important pillar' and a 'springboard' that can provide opportunities for young people.
Debate on the educational potential of sport
The Ministers exchanged views on the educational potential of sport and the question of how sport can help disadvantaged young people, including young migrants, to find their place in society.
Romain Schneider hailed it as a 'fruitful debate' during a press conference after the Council. He described sport as a 'very important pillar' and a 'springboard' that can provide opportunities for young people. He referred to the presentation of concrete examples that can be replicated in other regions and countries.
Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Sport, stressed the importance of sport for creating a sense of belonging and for finding a place in society. These experiences are 'important for young people at risk of exclusion, and today this is more vital than ever', he said, in reference to the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015. He also said he had extended offers to ministers to mobilise funds and European instruments in the field of sport, citing Erasmus+ in particular.
The Council had two guests: Mathieu Moreuil, representative of the English 'Premier League', and Edwin Moses, double Olympic athletics champion and president of the 'Laureus World Sports Awards'. Both presented their experiences in the field. Edwin Moses, through 150 different projects worldwide supported by the 'Laureus Foundation', aims to promote and increase sports participation for all and its use as a tool for social change to help disadvantaged young people throughout the world.
The subject of social integration through sport was at the centre of the lunchtime debates of structured dialogue which, before the meeting of the Council, gathered together several representatives of the sports movement to share their plans and expectations for the public authorities and European institutions to make better use of sport for the social integration of disadvantaged young people and migrants.
The future Dutch presidency presented its priorities on the subject of 'Sport' for the first half of 2016, priorities which revolve around the general idea of the integrity of sport.
Conclusions on the promotion of motor skills, physical and sport activities for children
The Council adopted conclusions on the promotion of motor skills, physical and sport activities for children on the basis of a recommendation of the Council of November 2013. These invite Member States to develop interdisciplinary approaches and integrated strategies encompassing sport, health, education, environment, transport, urban planning and other relevant sectors, underlining that 'physical education in schools is potentially an effective tool for greater awareness of the importance of health-enhancing physical activities'.
The conclusions find that the level of physical activity among children has decreased over the last twenty years and that there is a growing prevalence of overweight or obese children. Almost 7 % of national health budgets in the EU are thus spent annually treating diseases related to obesity.
The conclusions also refer to the lines of action recommended by the EU for physical activity. These note that, over the past few years, the daily habits of young children have changed in line with new leisure trends (television, Internet, video games, smartphones, etc.) and that 'this development coincides with the increase in the problem of overweight or obese children'.
According to the Ministers, we must encourage all children (including those with disabilities) to practise a physical activity in order to prevent health and developmental problems in children. They emphasise the importance of the learning process – known as motor development – in the education and childcare structures during early childhood, which 'does not always occur naturally'. The Ministers emphasise that 'this is why it is of the utmost importance to create physical activity opportunities for children and raise awareness of this issue'.
They call for consideration of all of the recommendations published in June 2015 by the expert group on practising a health-enhancing physical activity. This expert group was created as part of the second work plan for sport for 2014–2017, adopted on 21 May 2014. On the basis of these recommendations, the Ministers call for attention to be drawn to the period before attending pre-school and school and to encourage schools to establish a framework for cooperation with sports organisations in order to promote both classroom and extra-curricular activities, among other things. They still insist on the need to encourage parents, families and the wider community to actively participate in physical activities with children, in suitable locations.
Conclusions aimed at strengthening the EU's position in the World Anti-Doping Agency
The Council adopted conclusions aimed at improving and strengthening the representation of Member States of the EU within the Foundation Board of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), a wish already expressed during an informal meeting on 7 July 2015. It is also a question of improving the coordination of the positions of the EU and its Member States prior to each WADA meeting. EU representation and coordination within the WADA Foundation Board is based on a 2011 Council resolution.
The Foundation Board, which constitutes the supreme decision-making body of WADA, is composed of 38 members equally distributed between the sports movement and government institutions. Europe holds 5 seats out of the 18 allocated to public authorities. Three seats are allocated to the EU and two seats to the Council of Europe. Romain Schneider said that the new representative for the EU will be the British Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch.
No agreement on signing the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions
The Council was informed by the Presidency about the process of signing the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, which aims to combat the manipulation of results, notably match-fixing, and to promote the integrity of sport. According to the Commissioner, Malta is blocking the case for 'economic reasons' due to the 'structure' of its economy, which would, in its opinion, be 'considerably affected' by this Convention through provisions relating to online gambling. Romain Schneider specified that the Member State would oppose the Convention's definition of 'illegal sports gambling'.
Furthermore, the Commission briefed the Council on the outcome of the European Week of Sport which took place on 7 to 13 September 2015, as well as on the guidelines for the event in 2016, published on 18 November 2015.