European Commission Sport Unit Breakfast: Updates on EU activities in sport & much more

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

On 15 June, the Sport Unit of the European Commission organised its usual breakfast to update its network on the latest EU activities in the field of sport. It was a special Sport Unit breakfast; the first of its kind that was held online. Almost 70 participants joined the virtual meeting, including ENGSO Secretary General Kaisa Larjomaa and Communications Expert and PR Liaison Mariann Bardocz-Bencsik.

After the welcoming words of Yves Le Lostecque, Head of Sport Unit, his colleague Agata Dziarnowska gave an update on the European Commission’s most recent activities in the field of sport. Firstly, she gave an overview of this year’s Erasmus+ Sport Calls for Proposals. The European Commission’s Erasmus+ Sport budget for 2020 is 70.8 million EUR. This year, 1,145 proposals were submitted, which is a 49% increase compared to last year (766 proposals). Ms Dziarnowska presented this year’s calls for pilot projects and preparatory actions, including the one on infrastructure innovation, and briefly talked about the #BeInclusive EU Sport Awards as well, which is still accepting applications until 30 June. Regarding the third EU Work Plan for Sport, she informed us that an implementation report will be adopted by the Commission at the end of June 2020.

Ms Dziarnowska updated us on the most recent EU Sport policy developments
Ms Dziarnowska updated us on the most recent EU Sport policy developments

With regards to the European Week of Sport, she mentioned the recently held Key Players Seminar and the #BeActive Awards. At the end of her presentation, Ms Dziarnowska briefly spoke about the general response measures of the Commission to the COVID-19 crisis, including the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, the Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE) and the State Aid Temporary Framework, which can also benefit the sport sector through their national implementation. She has also mentioned the measures of the Commission that are directly related to sport, including the extension of numerous deadlines and providing flexibility in project implementation. She briefly mentioned the upcoming Erasmus 2021–2027 Programme as well, which has a proposed budget of 27.9 billion EUR and it aims to support recovery and resilience in sectors hit by the pandemic.

The Sport Unit’s updates were followed by a presentation from Martina Jeričević, Chair of the Working Party on Sport of the Croatian Presidency. Ms Jeričević mentioned the unprecedented circumstances under which the Croatian Presidency needs to operate, delivering its activities around their priorities in sport.

The priorities of the Croatian Presidency in the field of sport
The priorities of the Croatian Presidency in the field of sport

One of them is the adoption of the Council conclusions on empowering coaches by enhancing opportunities to acquire skills and competences. This priority was also highlighted in their seminar entitled "Why does European sport need skilled & competent coaches?". The second topic of the Presidency was the role and influence of media in sport, which was addressed at the virtual meeting of sports directors on 25 June. The directors would also discuss a new framework for the EU cooperation in the field of sport, kicking off the preparations of the next EU Work Plan for Sport. During the Presidency, the EU ministers for sport convened for two video conferences, on 21 April and on 2 June. The Council would still adopt Conclusions on the Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recovery of the sport sector.

After Ms Jeričević, Katarzyna Biniaszczyk, Coordinator of the Sports Group of the European Parliament gave an update on the sports-related activities of the European Parliament. She announced that the CULT Committee has opened a Call on a study on the impact of COVID-19 on a number of sectors, including sport, and that the political groups of the Parliament have written position papers on the topic as well. For example, the Group of the European People’s Party has highlighted the role of sport in the recovery of the tourism sector. She also addressed the question of the EU Multiannual Financial Framework, saying that the European Parliament is not satisfied with the new proposed budget for the Erasmus+ Programme. The CULT Committee of the Parliament and the Sport Group are demanding to triple the Erasmus+ budget, and asking to increase the percentage reserved for sport from 1.8% to 2%. The Group is also working to mainstream sport to the COVID-19 recovery package and the Structural Funds.

After the updates from the European Union, the breakfast continued with interventions from other stakeholders.

Folker Hellmund, Director of the European Olympic Committee’s EU Office gave an update on the office’s activities, including their member online seminars and their “Road towards Innovative governance of NOCs and Grassroots Sport” (RINGS) project that has also dealt with lessons learned from the pandemic. Mr Hellmund also summarised and evaluated the EU response from the perspective of sport, mentioning for example the difficulties to implement EU coronavirus responses at national level and the need to integrate sport in future Structural Funds, including the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF).

Kiera Wason, Policy Officer at Sport and Citizenship, pointed out that while the COVID-19 crisis has exposed the heath gap in our societies, it can also serve as a catalyst to adopt a more active way of life. She presented key recommendations on the role of sport in the process of exiting lockdown, including enhancing the status of volunteers, and the need for publicly funded recovery funds.

After the presentations, the floor was open to everyone to ask questions, make comments and exchange ideas. Our Secretary General Kaisa Larjomaa took the opportunity to update the participants on ENGSO’s activities, including the recently organised online seminars for our members. ENGSO had organised online seminars in May on COVID-19 and sport at the European level and indoor sports and the exit from the COVID-19 lockdown. The active participation in the events shows that sport is struggling in all countries, and that there is a great need for cooperation across borders to help sport come back. She also took the opportunity to invite the other participants to the third European Sport Platform, which will be organised on 13-14 November in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The breakfast concluded with bidding farewell to Agata Dziarnowska, as she will leave the Sport Unit after six years at the end of June. Head of Unit Yves Le Lostecque said a heartfelt goodbye to her and assuring that Ms Dziarnowska will be missed in the European sport policy circles immensely. We cannot agree more with Mr Le Lostecque and wish Ms Dziarnowska all the best in her future career.