During one of its last plenary sessions before the May elections, the European Parliament has adopted four important reports outlining its position to future EU funding programmes beyond 2021. In its votes on 26, 27 and 28 March 2019 the EP agreed its negotiating position on the future of Erasmus+, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and two funding instruments in the EU’s external relations – the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance III (IPA III) covering the EU accessions countries and the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), which brings together several current programmes targeting both geographical regions (including Eastern Europe) and thematic areas (e.g. support to human rights). The EOC EU Office has made a considerable effort to actively engage with Members of the European Parliament regarding these reports in order include clear mentions for sport. Due to this work with the EP, several positive sport-related amendments in thematic priorities have been achieved.
The adopted position of the EP in regard to Erasmus+ can be deemed positive for the European sport movement. The Parliament is proposing to triple the budget of Erasmus+ (the European Commission had proposed doubling the funds) and included mobility activities for “young people practising, andsport staff engaged in, grassroots sport” as well as “not-for-profit grassroots sport events, including small-scale events”. The EP also seeks to open the possibility for international mobility in sport.
The EP’s position on the IPA III proposal includes sport-related amendments in thematic priorities for both general assistance and assistance for cross-border cooperation. The EP stresses, for example, that “access to lifelong learning and physical activity should be strengthened” and “investment in education and training and sport infrastructure particularly with a view to reducing territorial disparities and fostering non-segregated education and including through the use of digital technologies should be supported.”
However, the NDICI report is even more supportive to the role of sport in external affairs. MEPs have included 5 sport-related articles in the final text, including a reference to sport among the European Neighbourhood area objectives. In the “areas of cooperation”, the EP’s report goes even further (on the proposal of the EOC EU Office: “Supporting actions, and promoting cooperation, in the area of sport to contribute to the empowerment of women, young people, individuals and communities as well as to the health, education and social inclusion objectives of the 2030 Agenda.”
The European Parliament’s position on the European Regional Development Fund includes sport in three aspects of the specific objectives (Art. 2):
“improving equal access to inclusive and quality services in education, training and life long learning and sport through developing accessible infrastructure and services;”
“fostering integrated and inclusive social, economic and environmental development, culture, natural heritage, sustainable tourism also through the tourist districts, sports and security in urban areas, including functional urban areas;”
“fostering integrated and inclusive social, economic and environmental development, culture, natural heritage, sustainable tourism also through the tourist districts, sports and security, all at local level, rural, mountain, islands and coastal regions, isolated and sparsely populated and all other areas that have difficulty accessing basic services including also on NUTS 3 level, through territorial and local development strategies, […].”
The EP’s reports form the first part of the legislative process at the end of which the respective regulations establishing the new funding instruments will be adopted. The ball is now on the side of the Council of the EU to agree its position, which will then be confronted with the EP’s one and with the European Commission’s original proposal during the so-called Trialogue.
While the Council has already reached its agreement – General Partial Approach – on the IPA III, it is yet to agree its position on the NDICI. Regarding Erasmus+, the ministers reached an agreement on a partial general approach, which excludes budget-related issues and figures, on 26 November 2018. The Romanian Presidency also agreed a new compromise text on ERDF and Cohesion Fund in January.
The EOC EU Office will keep closely following the process and will do its best to support the EP’s position and with it the sport-related articles.