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[Check Against Delivery]
Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
Presentation of future European Week of Sport
Conference preparing for the launch
Brussels, 11 June 2014
It is a great pleasure to be here today with such a large and distinguished audience – amongst which I also see many familiar faces. I would like to thank you all for your interest in the European Week of Sport.
According to recent surveys on sport and physical activity, there is unfortunately little or even no improvement in participation levels. Our Eurobarometer survey from April 2014 confirms this worrying trend.
More specifically, an increasing number of Europeans never exercise or play sport (42% today compared to 39% four years ago). A staggering 30% never do any physical activities at all. Of course, these figures refer to the EU average. In southern or eastern Europe the situation is even more serious than in northern Europe.
Today, I trust that we all share the same concerns regarding these worrying results. We need to bring together our different experiences and initiatives to help reverse this trend. The idea of a European Week of Sport has exactly this aim: to concentrate efforts on the promotion of health and well-being through sport and physical activity.
Over the course of the past year we have been consulting extensively on this idea and I would like to thank those of you who contributed to this first phase of preparatory work. We learned a lot, and in particular that there is no one-size-fits-all and that national traditions and sport structures have to be respected.
We looked in detail at already existing campaigns such as Move Week organised by ISCA or the French 'Sentez-Vous Sport', and we also considered the outcome of our Preparatory Actions from 2009 focussed on promoting health and physical activity, the challenges they faced and the degree of their success.
All of this preparatory analysis leads us to today's conference.
[Making things happen on the ground]
Let me start by recalling that efforts to promote sport and physical activity at EU level are not new.
The idea to establish an annual European large-scale event to raise awareness on sport and physical activity in the form of a Day or a Week of Sport originated in a Preparatory Action project that the Commission funded, led by the Provincial Council of Barcelona.
The idea then was taken up at the political level for the first time in the European Parliament, in the so-called ‘Fisas Report’. I am therefore very happy that Mr Fisas is here with us today, being one of the initiators of the Week.
Furthermore, within the policy debate, the Council, in its 2012 Conclusions on promoting health-enhancing physical activity, invited the Commission to - I quote - "consider establishing an annual European Week of Sport as a means to promote physical activity and participation in sport at all levels".
From our side, we looked carefully at these ideas, and also at other existing European initiatives and other European days and weeks.
From the outset, we were determined to go beyond a basic awareness-raising campaign and ensure that we can offer more added value and make things happen on the ground. This is also why we moved away from the idea of a Day and focused more on a Week – to maximise our impact.
To this end, we have consulted extensively: with Member States and stakeholders. We had numerous bilateral discussions, a good debate at the Sports Forum in Nicosia and also a fruitful seminar in Brussels last November.
[Support from Member States]
What did we learn, then, from these consultations?
First of all, the idea of a European Week of Sport receives clear support from Member States, from local authorities and from sport stakeholders, ranging from federations to grassroots organisations or sport industries. To be successful, the European Week of Sport will need to actively involve them all. We need to involve you all.
Secondly, we should not reinvent the wheel. A European Week of Sport should build on existing campaigns and events. It is our intention to encourage and support partnerships with and between organisations that can actually implement activities on the ground.
The European Week of Sport will therefore provide added value to existing events and at the same time encourage new activities/campaigns under a new 'EU umbrella'.
Thirdly, a European Week of Sport should go beyond the promotion of sport in a strict sense and include the wider physical activity perspective in order to reach out to as large an audience as possible.
Moreover, and if you allow me, in order to be successful, the European Week of Sport cannot only address 'sporting youth', or indeed those who are already convinced. We should not be preaching to the converted or we will fail to reach out to the largest possible audience. What needs to be done is to address everybody: young people, women as much as men, older generations as well as youth, people with disabilities, socially disadvantaged groups and everyone else! For that, we will need a clear message and well-targeted communication activities.
Being successful in our outreach also implies that activities should take place where people are, hence at different levels: EU, national and local. To achieve that we need to work together in a spirit of partnership! And we will no doubt also need the help of Ambassadors – athletes, celebrities, personalities who are immediately recognisable at the local level.
Finally, the Week does not intend to focus only on creating awareness. It should really constitute an opportunity for everybody to work out and engage in physical activity. It should inspire and encourage people to get off their couches, and get people to move!
With respect to all these lessons collected from our consultations, it is obvious that we can only succeed by pooling our efforts and that the support of your organisations will be key to effectively reaching out to these various audiences.
[Good timing for schools]
Let me now introduce you to how we envisage the European Week of Sport.
First of all, it will be an umbrella of activities taking place all over the EU under the same banner and with the same aim. Crucially, I want to underline that it will have an evolutionary character, building gradually on the experienced gained.
As a starting point, the 2015 Week will inevitably have a stronger EU-centred dimension than subsequent editions. But most importantly it will set the necessary working tools for the future.
Following this first edition, I hope that gradually, year after year, more and more events will take place in the Member States, at national, regional and local levels, while the overall coordination and monitoring of the Week will remain in Brussels.
For 2015, The European Week of Sport will take place during the second week of September. This is indeed the time of the year when most people are likely to consider membership in clubs or fitness centres or to engage in some other form of physical activity. It is also a good timing for schools. These dates should be kept for future editions to guarantee stability and facilitate EU-wide planning.
The Commission will launch the event in Brussels and will also organise a high-level conference on sport and physical activity to attract attention to the key message. We will also organise a communication campaign with the help of a specialised company, whose representative will share their thoughts with you later today.
As from the 2015 edition, the Erasmus+ programme will be mobilised. We are planning to support cross-border projects to be implemented during or in support of the Week. This will already happen in 2014 but also through a specific 2015 call dedicated to the European Week of Sport.
We are also planning to fund each Member State with a grant of €80 000 to help support the organisation of at least one national event and coordinate grassroots activities.
Aside from the financial support, the Commission will provide the means to achieve an efficient communication. A tool-kit will be developed with a view to help the organisation of physical activity events. In addition, a standardised communication pack will be placed at the disposal of participating organisations. As part of this pack, a European Week of Sport label will be created, allowing any organisation, city, region or other body willing to organise an event in line with the objectives of the European Week of Sport, through to the end of the month of September, to benefit from EU-wide visibility.
The European Week of Sport needs to be a work in progress, a dynamic notion. Therefore, to implement all of these actions, and ensure both continuity and evolution, a dedicated steering committee will be established. It will be composed of selected stakeholders who have already demonstrated their willingness to carry out concrete actions and events.
I know there is still a lot to be done before September 2015. But today's conference is an opportunity for you to go into more detail on each of these elements and on the overall concept of the European Week of Sport. It is an opportunity for the Commission to finalise the broad framework of the Week so that you, our partners in this initiative, can build on this and give it the flesh and bones it requires.
I would like to thank all those who will contribute with presentations and inspiring examples of existing activities.
I hope that by the end of today you will be as convinced as I am that by joining forces the European Week of Sport can have a lasting impact in raising awareness of the value of sport and physical activity in promoting health and well-being in the EU.
Rest assured that we are committed to make the European Week of Sport a success from the 2015 Week and to pave the way to even more successful further editions.