The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport (EYCS) Council took place in Brussels on 20 and 21 November 2017. The UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU represented the interests of the UK at the Youth, Culture and Sport sessions of this Council.
The Council achieved a general approach among EU member states on the proposals laying down the framework for the European Solidarity Corps. The UK voted in favour of the general approach, which achieved almost unanimous support. The Commission commented on how they would consider the expansion of geographical scope of the Corps, which is an important matter for the UK. Members also unanimously agreed to adopt draft Council conclusions on Smart Youth Work.
The main policy debate focused on the issues that matter to young people and possible European efforts to address these issues. The debate was positive, with the UK setting out the importance of hearing directly from young people about the issues that matter to them, as well as highlighting the important work of the British Youth Council. The Commission also provided information on a new narrative for Europe, which further emphasised the importance of giving a political voice to Europe’s youth.
Draft Council conclusions on promoting access to culture via digital means, were adopted by the Council with the UK supporting their adoption.
On audio-visual, the presidency provided an update on the Audio-visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD). This update acted as the first reading since a general approach was achieved at the last EYCS Council in May 2017. The discussion focused on the progress thus far of Trilogue discussions between the Council and the European Parliament. Crucial areas of agreement thus far between the EP and Council included the provision of greater access of online digital content to people with disabilities. The UK emphasised how it can be a valuable asset as discussion progressed with the EP.
A policy debate on the role of culture in building cohesive societies in Europe, and a later item on remaking Europe through culture, put forward by the French delegation, emphasised a number of important themes including cultural heritage, using culture to integrate migrants, and the mobility of artists. The UK’s position, in line with the spirit of the discussion, was supportive of the role culture plays in building community cohesion, raising the importance of tourism, and how creative and cultural exports shape the way member states, and the EU as a bloc, are viewed by the rest of the world.
Information was provided by the German delegation on the current legislative proposal regarding, the regulation on the import of cultural goods. This focused on the responsibility of member states to better regulate the illicit trade of cultural goods as a means to prevent such trade funding terrorist activities. The UK did not comment on these proposals, however my Department and HM Revenue and Customs continue to work with the EU in developing this file. In addition to this item, information was provided on international cultural relations, cultural property, and the role of the EU in the defence of cultural heritage crisis areas.
The Council session on sport led with a policy debate, covering the main challenges facing sport in the 21st century and co-operation between the EU, Governments, and the sport movement. The debate highlighted the crucial role of sport for society as a whole and the importance of protecting the autonomy and integrity of sport. The UK’s intervention emphasised how we are ensuring all citizens can access sport, targeting the least active in society. We also drew attention to the work that the UK Government are doing to combat corrupt practices in sport, through our Code for Sports Governance and our work alongside the International Olympic Committee to develop an “International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport”. Council conclusions on the role of coaches in society and a Council resolution on the EU structured dialogue on sport were adopted, with the UK supporting both items.
The Bulgarian delegation provided information regarding the meeting of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Foundation Board in Seoul on 16 November. The Polish delegation then announced the 2019 World conference on doping in sport to be held in Katowice, and provided an informal invitation to member states. There was also information from the Greek delegation on supporting the Olympic Truce during the Winter Olympic Games, to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.
The Council received information from the Bulgarian delegation, as the incoming presidency for the first half of 2018, setting out their work programme for the next six months. They highlighted a number of priorities for their presidency including:
continuing to move forward with the revision of AVMSD;
moving to the next stage of discussions on the EU Solidarity Corps, while focusing on the role of young people in peace-keeping and security;
highlighting the importance of cultural heritage and strengthening international relations through culture; and
fighting doping through information and education of young people.
The next Council is scheduled for 22 and 23 May 2018.