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Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council

Volume 589: debated on Tuesday 2 December 2014

A meeting of the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council was held in Brussels on 25 November. I represented the UK for the cultural and audiovisual section of the Council and Shan Morgan, the UK’s deputy permanent representative, represented the UK for the sport section of the Council.

Culture and audiovisual

The Council was invited to adopt Council conclusions relating to European audiovisual policy in the digital era. The UK supported the adoption of these Council conclusions.

The Council then invited Culture Ministers to state their positions on the contested wording in the draft conclusions on the EU work plan for culture (2015-18), which related to equal VAT treatment of e-books and physical books.

I noted that tax issues were the sole responsibility of ECOFIN, and successfully pushed back against the contested wording. The final text represented a good outcome for the UK, and was met with broad agreement by all delegations. The presidency also reached an agreement on actions for culture in the EU’s external relations.

Having concluded the work plan, the presidency invited Culture Ministers to discuss the contribution of the cultural and creative sectors to the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. While the majority supported culture being included in the Europe 2020 strategy, many delegations also warned that by doing so culture would be reduced to no more than a statistic.

The UK agreed that while culture did have a contribution to make to the goals of the strategy, it was not substantial enough to merit its inclusion in the strategy itself, which should remain focused on key contributors to jobs and economic growth. Others argued that by incorporating culture into the strategy, the EU would be able to ensure that culture was mainstreamed throughout all policy areas. Some delegations highlighted that by including culture in the Europe 2020 strategy, European funding that culture was not currently eligible for would become available.

Sport

The Council was invited to adopt Council conclusions relating to sport as a driver for innovation and growth. The UK supported the adoption of these Council conclusions.

Delegates were invited to discuss sport and physical activity at school age. Although some member states had experienced a decline in sport participation and others an increase, there was general agreement among all delegations that participation in sport offered many benefits and skills to young people, and that people that had participated in sport at a young age achieved better academic results and were more employable than young people who had not.

One of the key challenges identified during the discussion was how to motivate young people to opt for sport rather than computer games or other sedentary activities in their free time. The UK stated that major sporting events help to motivate young people to get involved in sport, as witnessed in the UK after London hosted the Olympic games in 2012. All member states stressed that another main challenge Governments faced was ensuring that sport on offer was inclusive. Several delegations cited data that showed girls were most likely to drop out of sports clubs early on or not participate in sport at all.

Other business

The Commission provided a brief update on the state of play of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership negotiations.

The incoming Latvian presidency gave a summary on its priorities, which would include cultural heritage, innovative architecture and the results of the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 strategy.

There was a report from the latest meeting of the World Anti-Doping Agency and a presentation on the Council of Europe’s convention against the manipulation of sports competitions.

Finally, the incoming Latvian presidency set out its priorities in the field of sport, which would primarily focus on the role of sport in fostering skills and competences.