The European Commission's White Paper on Sport

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The European Commission adopted the White Paper on Sport, its first comprehensive strategic initiative in the field of sport, at one of its last meetings before the summer break, on 11 July this year. It is a major piece of work, with a total length of approx. 200 pages (including all annexes). On average, the Commission adopts only two or three White Papers per year, and the fact that the communication on sport got this status is therefore an acknowledgement of the comprehensive nature, longer-term value and political weight of the document.

The White Paper has to be seen in the overall context in which sport has been addressed at EU level. It is the culmination of a long process: the Amsterdam Declaration of 1997, the Nice Declaration of 2000, and then the agreement of the Intergovernmental Conference in 2004 to include sport in the Treaty, coupled with the positive results of the European Year of Education through Sport 2004, all reflect the European framework that already existed for sport. This framework put the accent on the special characteristics of sport, and in particular its social and educational values.

In this political context and with the encouragement it had always received from Member States and the sports community, the Commission confirmed last year that momentum existed for a policy initiative on sport.

The consultation process for the White Paper lasted approximately two years. The Commission engaged in extensive consultations at different levels: with sport stakeholders, with national authorities, and internally among the various Commission services that deal to a greater or lesser extent with sport-related issues.

Consultations with sport stakeholders took the form of several consultation conferences as well as numerous meetings with sport federations, Olympic committees, and other interested parties ranging from e.g. umbrella organisations of sport NGOs to representatives of the sporting goods industry. Besides, a successful on-line consultation in the spring of 2007 gave all interested parties the opportunity to express views on the initiative. 777 replies were received, a higher number than is usual for this type of consultation. A detailed overview of the consultation process can be found in Annex III of the Staff Working Document "The EU and Sport: Background and Context" which accompanies the White Paper.

Consultations with Member States mainly took the form of regular meetings of Sport Directors and Sport Ministers, as well as exchanges of views in a number of Working Groups.

Internal consultations within the Commission were of particular importance in an area without explicit EU competence and were a key factor in determining the shape and content of the White Paper. The Commission's Sport Unit, part of the Directorate-General for Education and Culture, is one of very few policy units in the Commission whose activities are not based on any particular Treaty provision. This means that most issues the Unit deals with are ultimately the competence of other services within the Commission: DG Employment and Social Affairs for the free movement of sportspersons, DG Internal Market for other Internal Market issues, DG Health and Consumer Protection for health-related issues, DG Competition for anti-trust and State aid issues, DG Justice, Freedom and Security for public order and the fight against crime, DG External Relations and DG Development for sport relations with third countries, etc.

Only a year ago, each of these services was conducting its own actions in the sport area, without much effective coordination. This has changed thanks to the White Paper. An effective coordination mechanism has been set up among the approx. 15 Directorates-General that are concerned. This so-called Inter-Service Group "Sport" will keep functioning in the future and will play a key role in overseeing the implementation of the White Paper. …

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