A meeting of the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council was held in Brussels on 24 November. Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Government Minister for Culture, Europe, and External Affairs, represented the UK for the cultural and audio-visual 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 overarching theme of this ministerial Council was the relationship between culture and foreign policy, within the context of the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria by ISIS, and the recent attacks in Paris.
The Council adopted Conclusions on culture in the EU’s external relations, with a specific focus on development co-operation: as well as conclusions amending the EU work plan for culture 2015-18 to add a new priority of intercultural dialogue, so as to address the current migration crisis.
Ministers debated how best to act together against the destruction and illicit trafficking of cultural heritage in conflict areas, with the focus on the international community, and the need to mitigate the effects of the fragmentation of competences and legislation in this area.
The UK confirmed its determination to play a full part in the protection of cultural heritage, and highlighted its work on the establishment of a cultural protection fund. It also drew attention to the significant experience that has been built up in digital documentation and visualisation of the historic environment through the Scottish Ten programme.
Overall the UK policy in this area is to preserve, to prevent, and to protect, and we underlined the importance of targeted EU interventions or actions that played to its area of competence and avoided duplication with other international bodies.
During the course of the ensuing discussion on culture and digitisation the UK noted the importance of digitisation as a powerful tool which can help deliver many cultural, social, and educational initiatives.
On the specific issue of the Europeana digital cultural portal, we noted the need to develop a sustainable funding model which did not exclude the participation of private-sector organisations, including those which were in a position to either contribute content, or to introduce Europeana to a wider audience.
Under other business, the European Commission updated on the current situation concerning the regulatory fitness and performance (REFIT) exercise in the audio-visual sector, and other relevant initiatives of the Digital Single Market Strategy.
Its public consultation on the audio-visual media services directive had revealed a very strong majority in support of maintaining the country of origin principle for regulating broadcast media, as well as for extending the scope of the instrument to include new types of services.
There was divergence on how to enhance protection of minors, commercial works and communications. The Commission confirmed that the first of the copyright regime proposals, on portability and unjustified geoblocking, would be published in the first half of 2016.
Finally, under this part of the agenda, the Council took note from the Netherlands delegation of its main priorities in the field of culture when it takes over the presidency for the period January - June 2016. These will include the importance of digitisation for the preservation and dissemination of culture, and the need to establish a sustainable funding model for the Europeana digital culture portal.
The Council adopted conclusions on EU representation in the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA): and also on the promotion of motor skills, physical and sport activities for children.
These were followed by a policy debate on the educational potential of sports: in helping disadvantaged youth find their place in society. The debate was introduced by two external speakers, of which Olympic champion Ed Moses described the struggle to build an evidence base for convincing media and Government that the sports sector was credible in playing a role, and appealed to Governments to think longer-term and fund research. He was followed by the Premier League, which introduced a video of its Crystal Palace FC project, from which two participants had since built careers in Premier League clubs.
The UK described several of its projects in this area, such as Get on Track, and was the only member state to emphasise the importance of including young people with disabilities.
Under other business: 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.
The Council was also briefed by the EU representatives on the outcome of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) meeting which took place in Colorado Springs on 17 - 18 November 2015. The UK’s Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch, has been named as the newly elected EU representative on the WADA Foundation Board for the UK-Estonia-Bulgaria presidency trio, and will take up her post in 2016. Two of the three EU member states that were not yet fully code-compliant, Greece and Spain, (the third being the Czech Republic) intervened to stress they were preparing the required amendments to national legislation.
This was followed by information on the informal meeting of Ministers for Sport, held in Luxembourg from 06 - 07 July 2015: and guidelines presented by the European Commission on next year’s European week of sport.
Finally, under other business the Council took note of information from the Netherlands delegation of its main priorities in the field of sport when it takes over the presidency for the period January - June 2016. These will include the promotion of good governance and education in and through sport, with specific attention paid to international major sports events, sport diplomacy and voluntary activities.