The Union shall contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues, while taking account of the specific nature of sport, its structures based on voluntary activity and its social and educational function. (…) Union action shall be aimed at: developing the European dimension in sport, by promoting fairness and openness in sporting competitions and cooperation between bodies responsible for sports, and by protecting the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen, especially the youngest sportsmen and sportswomen.
So far, the European Commission is the most active institution dealing with sport at the European level. In the political system of the EU, the European Commission has the right to initiative.
The European Commission has the power to:
› Propose recommendations and “incentive measures” (Article 165)
› Propose regulations or directives in other policy areas which may also affect sport (e.g. Internal Market, Competition, Employment and Social Affairs)
› Publish Green Papers or White Papers on sport related issues. Green Papers usually launch a debate, whereas White Papers contain concrete proposals for future policies
› Initiate infringement procedures if a Member State fails to comply with EU law and refer the case to the European Court of Justice.
Moreover, the European Commission finances sport related projects and studies, provides secretarial support and expertise to the Council expert groups and engages in regular dialogue with sport stakeholders. The overall responsibility for sport falls within the Directorate General for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth (DG EAC) led by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel from Bulgaria. At the working level, sport related matters are dealt with by the “Sport Unit”. However, as sport is affected by other EU policy areas as well, other DGs such as Internal Market (DG MARKT), Competition (DG COMP) or Employment and Social Affairs (DG EMPL) are of utmost relevance for sport as well.
The Lisbon Treaty considerably strengthened the competences of the European Parliament. The European Parliament obtained new powers in budgetary matters and, in most policy areas, is involved in legislative decisions through ordinary legislative procedure. Article 165 requires the approval of the European Parliament in the case of “incentive measures” (e.g. funding programmes). The European Parliament must approve the vast majority of EU legislation as well.
The European Parliament also has the power to:
› Adopt opinions, reports and resolutions on sport related matters
› Commission sport related studies
› Submit parliamentary questions to the Commission
› Organise hearings on sport related matters
The technical work is done in Parliamentary Committees. The general responsibility for sport lies with the Committee for Education and Culture (CULT) chaired by German MEP Sabine Verheyen. Other Committees may also be relevant, such as the Committee for Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) or Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL). Additionally, at the beginning of 2015, an Intergroup on sport was set-up within the European Parliament (Intergroups are informal groupings of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on an issue of common interest.), which held its first meeting on 30 June 2015.
With regard to sport the creation of the Sport Ministers’ Council was one of the major changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. In the political system of the EU, the Council - as the institution representing the national governments - convenes in different configurations, depending on the issue under discussion. The Sport Ministers’ Council brings together the ministers of the 28 EU Member States in charge of sports. Since September 2010, Sport is officially part of the Council configuration “Education, Culture, Youth and Sport”. Formal Council meetings are held twice a year. In addition, sport ministers also come together on a more informal basis.
The Sport Ministers’ Council can adopt recommendations and “incentive measures”, such as a sport funding programme. For the latter, the approval of the European Parliament is required, as foreseen by the ordinary legislative procedure. Decisions of the Council of Sport Ministers are not legally binding for the Member States.
Council Working Party on Sport
The technical work is done in a special working group: the Council Working Party on Sport. The latter is composed of delegates from national ministries in charge of sports and specialised technical staff from the Member States’ permanent representations in Brussels. Its main role is to prepare the agenda of the Sport Ministers’ Council.
The European Union Work Plan for Sport 2017-2020 adopted by the Sport Ministers in May 2017 provides for the creation of these two Expert Groups:
› The Expert Group on Integrity
› The Expert Group on Skills and Human Resources Development in Sport
The expert groups replace the informal sport related working groups that existed before. Participation is voluntary. Member States interested in participating in these working groups nominate experts. Moreover, each expert group can decide to invite observers such as “independent experts, representatives of the sport movement and other stakeholders”. For sport, it is essential to preserve access to these working groups. The Expert Groups are chaired by a representative of the Member States and the Commission provides expertise and secretarial support. The work of the expert group feeds into the activities of the Council Working Party on Sport.