On 10 September 2014, President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled his new team for the next five years. According to Juncker, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg and President of the Eurogroup, his team is a strong and experienced team (made up of 5 former Prime Ministers and 19 former Ministers) “that will put Europe back on the path to jobs and growth.” Also, there will be a new strategy as the Commission will have seven Vice-Presidents who will each lead a project team that mirrors the political guidelines. These political guidelines focus on “getting people back to work in decent jobs, triggering more investment, making sure banks lend to the real economy again, creating a connected digital market, a credible foreign policy and ensuring Europe stands on its own feet when it comes to energy security.
Sport not mentioned
Sport will remain under the same portfolio, previously named “Education, Culture, Youth and Multilingualism” under the chair of Commissioner Vassiliou which is now called “Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship”. The Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Tibor Navracsics, has been designated by Juncker to be in charge of this portfolio. He was previously Hungarian deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Public Administration and Justice, and has worked as lecturer at several universities.
However, it comes as a disappointment that neither his portfolio nor his mission letter specifically mention sport. Folker Hellmund, head of the European Olympic Committees’ EU Office, immediately reacted: “it is not a good message to the sport community and to European society as a whole. I now expect the Members of the European Parliament to raise this concern and make sure that sport can tap its full potential under the new Commission as well.”
Hearing of Tibor Navracsics
Tibor Navracsics’s hearing took place on 1 October 2014. Members of the European Parliament who work in the “Culture and Education” and “Industry, Research and Energy” questioned him for three hours. The Hungarian Commissioner-designate seemed to have understood the message sent by the sports community. In his opening statement, he insisted on sport being an important part of his work even if it is not mentioned in the title of his portfolio. He underlined that “for the first time in the European Union’s history, grassroots sport will now receive funding from the Union’s budget” and identified public health, social inclusion, gender equality, improved governance and the fight against match-fixing and doping as priorities for sport.
MEP Bogdan Wenta (EPP, PL) came back on the issue and questioned him about the odd exclusion of sport from his portfolio’s title. Tibor Navracsics answered by reiterating the importance of sport, highlighting the funding made available through Erasmus+ Sport, promoting the European Week of Sport which will take place for the first time in 2015 and insisted on the necessity to fight for a “decent” sport, through collaboration with the Council of Europe and international sport organisations.
MEP Zagorakis (EPP, EL) asked Tibor Navracsics how he would promote sport in schools and protect sport infrastructures. The Commissioner-designate answered by insisting upon the importance of sport towards well-being and suggested that an approach regarding sport infrastructures should be developed at the EU level. Overall, Navracsics’s performance can be judged as following a carefully-designed script. His answers on sport showed his will to deflect criticism on sport being overlooked but he refrained from delivering a clear political message and he oversimplified the message when saying for instance that grassroots sport will receive financing from the EU.
Hearings of the Commissioners-designate in the relevant parliamentary committees have started on 29 September and will theoretically end on 7 October (additional hearings could be organized). The European Parliament will then make its final vote on the College of Commissioners on 22 October 2014 in Strasbourg. Before the European Council can formally appoint the European Commission, the European Parliament has to consent to the entire College of Commissioners. If the Parliament gives its consent, the new Commission will take office on 1 November this year.
Further information: Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions