Today, Europe is the "epicentre" of the global coronavirus pandemic, according to the WHO. The arrival of Covid-19 has forced many sport organisations, to take precautionary measures, like postponing or cancelling events, meetings and sometimes even ceasing their activities. The “European Evening of Sports” which was supposed to take place in Brussels on 16 March has finally been postponed and we will come up with a new date as soon as possible.
Also the European Commission has postponed its annual EU Sports Forum supposed to take place in Zagreb, Croatia on 26-27 March. From a political and economic point of view, various measures have been implemented by the European Union since the very beginning of the crisis. According to Art. 168 of the TFEU, the EU has authority to take supportive actions in the domain of health where it “encourages cooperation” and “shall complement and not replace national policies”. Subsequently and in accordance with Art. 23 of the Schengen Borders Code, the Member States shall have the possibility of establishing checks at their borders, for renewable periods of 30 days, in the event of a serious threat to public policy or internal security. It is the first time that European countries have implemented such measures on grounds of health and this means that they all retain control over their health policy. Following these initiatives, the Commission responded by presenting guidelines for border measures to protect the health of the population.
While the Member States remain the main stakeholders in fighting the crisis, the Commission has set up a number of additional initiatives:
- On 10 March 2020, the Commission presented a new initiative called “Corona Response Investment Initiative”, proposing to direct € 37 billion from uncommitted means of European Structural Funds that would normally go back to the EU Budget of the following year. This amount sums up to almost €8 billion and will be added to the €29 billion of structural funding for the year 2020. On 13 March, the Commission called upon the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly approve this proposal. Five days later, the Council gave a go-ahead to launch support from the EU budget.
- On 19 March, the Commission adopted the new Temporary Framework "which enables Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy at this difficult time" as stated by Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager. The Framework’s strategy provides five types of aids:
1. Direct grants, selective tax advantages and advance payments
2. State guarantees for loans taken by companies from banks
3. Subsidised publics loans to companies
4. Safeguards for banks that channel State aid to the real economy
5. Short-term export credit insurance
- On 26 March in Brussels, 687 MEPs participated in the first vote of the extraordinary plenary session of the European Parliament to deal with COVID-19 urgency measures. Three main proposals have been approved, namely, the Corona Response Investment Initiative, the extension of the EU Solidarity Fund, and the decision to temporarily suspend EU rules on airport slots. Afterwards, the Council approved the Parliament’s position and the adopted measures will enter into force in the upcoming days.
- On 26 March, Commission President von der Leyen published proposals to fight the economic effects of the Covid-19 crisis. In her statement, she called for a further flexibility regarding the existing EU funding programmes: “As a first step we are currently working on a full flexibilisation of existing funds - such as the structural funds. This will provide immediate support.” It remains to be seen how this will impact the implementation of the Corona Response Investment Initiative. Interestingly, von der Leyen also stated that the Commission will propose changes also for the new Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) by saying: “The Commission will propose changes in the MFF proposal that will allow to address the fallout of the coronavirus crisis. This will include a stimulus package that will ensure that cohesion within the Union is maintained through solidarity and responsibility”.
All Member States are working on national funding schemes that go far beyond the support provided by the European Union. In general, sport organisations are eligible for support as soon as staff members are fully employed and the organisation is carrying out economic activities.
Since the spread of the coronavirus still develops, the EU is constantly introducing new measures and initiatives for the support. The EOC EU Office will closely continue to follow these activities.