A meeting of the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council was held in Brussels on 18-19 May. Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Government Minister for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, 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
Ministers had a first exchange of views on the Commission’s recently published digital single market strategy presented by Commissioner Oettinger.
The strategy was generally welcomed, although many member states, including the UK, raised concerns about the implication for copyright and for funding content. In a digital single market both consumer rights to access content, and producer rights to generate income from their material, need to be safeguarded. This would help foster innovation, cultural diversity, and economic growth.
The UK noted that there is now a real opportunity to look across the market and understand how to best deliver for Europe’s creative industries and consumers.
It was also agreed that the audiovisual media services directive (AVMSD) remained valid in many domains, but needed to be adapted to take into account the consequences of convergence.
Driven by issues around the broadcast of Russian language content the Baltic states sought agreement to focus the forthcoming review of the directive on territorial jurisdiction and derogation possibilities as well as procedural issues. Most member states agreed to solve such issues through enhanced co-operation, stressing the importance of the principle of freedom of expression. There was also general agreement on the importance of the country of origin principle––whereby each provider of audiovisual media services comes under the jurisdiction of only one EU member state––as a cornerstone of European audiovisual policy.
It was also agreed that the review would need to take into account issues such as content funding, advertising, and protection of minors.
Following the policy debate, the Council adopted conclusions on cultural and creative crossovers to stimulate innovation, economic sustainability, and social inclusion. These highlight how culture and artistic creativity can trigger innovation and enhance competitiveness in industry and business, as well as in education, healthcare and the environment.
The cultural and creative sectors cover a broad range from arts, crafts, architecture, heritage, libraries and publishing, to film, television, games, music, advertising, and design. Despite numerous studies that have demonstrated the significant contribution of these sectors to GDP, job creation and exports, the synergies with other sectors have not yet been fully explored.
The Council also adopted a decision designating Plovdiv in Bulgaria and Matera in Italy as European capitals of culture in 2019, following a recommendation from the Commission based on the reports of the selection panel and a positive opinion from the European Parliament.
The European capitals of culture initiative was launched in 1985, and over 40 cities have been designated since then. It aims to highlight the richness of European culture, and both its diversity and shared features.
Under other business, the Council was updated by the Commission on the culture and cultural heritage aspects of the Da’esh threat in Iraq and Syria: where on the one hand cultural sites are being destroyed for ideological reasons, and on the other archaeological objects are being illicitly traded to finance terrorist activities. The Commission was of the view that additional measures might be needed to prevent terrorist financing from illicit trafficking. The Portuguese Minister suggested, and offered to co-ordinate, a brief joint statement of Culture Ministers expressing condemnation and sorrow vis-a-vis the ongoing destruction.
The Council then took note of concerns from the Polish delegation, backed by several other member states, regarding the maximum threshold of €5 ,illion for small-scale projects financed from the European regional development fund. The Commission noted that these projects are designed to benefit small-scale infrastructures, and that alternatives exist to complement this particular funding stream.
The Council also took note of information from the Latvian presidency on the main outcomes of the stocktaking exercise relating to Council conclusions on cultural governance which had been adopted in November 2012.
Finally, under this part of the agenda, the Council took note from the Luxembourg delegation of its main priorities in the field of culture when it takes over the presidency for the period July-December 2015. These will include cross-sectoral co-operation on cultural issues, and the role of culture in the EU’s international relations, especially those relating to co-operation and development.
The Council adopted conclusions on maximising the role of grassroots sport in developing transversal skills, especially among young people. They highlight how voluntary activities in sport which act as a method of non-formal and informal learning can help young people acquire skills and transversal competences that complement formal education and enhance their employability.
Sport is the largest non-governmental movement in Europe. Voluntary activities in the sport sector mainly take place at grassroots level in the role either of facilitator, organiser, or participant.
There was then a policy debate on physical activity as an essential element of quality education. The promotion of physical activity is a priority of EU policy making in sport, and the debate included a comprehensive exchange on best practice. There was agreement that sport needed to be considered as an integral part of school life, with encouragement for young people to engage in extracurricular sport and physical activity. The extension of the use of community facilities was recommended to ensure that sports facilities are widely available; as was the fulfilment of the necessary safety and technical standards in partnership with local sports organisations and clubs.
The Council was subsequently briefed by the presidency on the state of play regarding the European Union’s signing of the Council of Europe convention on the manipulation of sports competitions. To date 18 countries—of which nine EU member states—have signed the convention, which is expected to come into force by 2016. With regards to EU signature, several delegations had submitted written questions to the Council Legal Service, who would provide a written opinion in June.
The Council was also briefed by the EU representatives on the outcome of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) meeting which took place in Montreal earlier in May. The meeting was focused on issues relating to the anti-doping code, the budget, and data protection. The EU is represented on the WADA foundation board––its supreme decision-making body––by Belgium, Luxembourg, and Malta. There are 38 members composed of representatives of the Olympic movement and national Governments.
WADA was established in 1999 to promote the fight against doping in sport. Its main activities include education, research, the development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the world anti-doping code.
Finally, under other business the Council took note of information from the Luxembourg delegation of its main priorities in the field of sport when it takes over the presidency for the period July-December 2015. These will include the promotion of physical activity in schools; double careers in sport; EU representation and co-ordination in WADA; and the potential adoption of the Council of Europe convention on the manipulation of sports competitions.