Speech by Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas, Minister of Interior, at the European Parliament, Culture and Education Committee

12 July 2013, Last updated at, 09:14 EET
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Barakauskas | author: K.Jasaitytė

Thank you, Mr Chairperson, distinguished Members of the Committee, distinguished head of the Committee – Mrs. Doris Pack, representatives of the political groups.

I am pleased to be here today and to represent the European Union Council. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to introduce you the priorities of Lithuania, the main planned work and all of our major challenges facing the field of sports in the EU Council Presidency in this half- year.  

First of all I would like to thank you, dear Members of the European Parliament, for the very great work and collaboration by combining Erasmus Plus program. Dear Mrs. Doris Pack, knowing your great personal contribution, sincerely thank you on behalf of the Presidency. For the first time sport will be funded separately and, dear Members of the Committee, your work, that the document appear exactly as it is now, has been very significant. This is an important document for sport and we, as the Presidency, will try to launch this program as planned – since 2014.

As you know, Lithuania joined the European Union before 9 years and now we for the first time we take power into our hands talking about Council of EU. It is a great honor and a great opportunity to introduce Lithuania. But it is a huge responsibility and a big challenge for such young country like Lithuania. The preparations for this event took a special attention. I believe that we are ready to ensure further smooth and effective work of Council of EU. The continuation of the work and consistency, honest collaboration in the negotiations and involvement of all the main participants into this process are the main principals which we will follow during the presidency. Moreover, we will try to reach our main goal. It is to create reliable, growing and open Europe.

During the presidency period, we are going to continue to implement a programme related with sport. This programme includes collaboration of Ireland, Lithuania and Greece. We will contribute to the unified topic of the three countries. It means, sport's as sectors input into economy and labour market as special attention paying to the youth unemployment which is a sorrow topic. In addition, we will pay attention to the role of sport in promoting social cohesion and public health promotion.

Our programme includes three themes reflecting precisely these common goals. Our aim of presidency is - not the quantity but the quality and alignment of common interests that is why we plan to have the adoption of the two documents, and the third-topic is dedicated for political debate.

The first legal document in sport would be Recommendation of the Council on health promotion through physical activity (HEPA). This document is important in that it provides ways of promoting physical activity and thereby improving public health. Thank you, dear members of the Committee, for the expressed on this topical subject.

The World Health Organization identifies the lack of physical activity as a fourth risk factor contributing to mortality and diseases. It is estimated that in the European region we lose about 1 mln of people every year. In addition, the EU population levels of physical activity in recent times do not grow or even fall, and according to Eurobarometer data, even 60 percent of EU citizens rarely or never do any physical activities. Each Member State, of course, is making efforts to promote physical activity in the population, but in order to seek changes in this area a greater cooperation and sharing of experiences is needed.

In accordance to the topicality of the problems last year the Council in the conclusions on HEPA approached the Commission that it would prepare a proposal for recommendation. It is planned that this document would reach the working group of the Council of Sports in September. We, as a presidency country, will seek that this document would be adopted at the end of November during the Council of education, youth, culture and sports.

The second document, which we will seek to adopt in this Council - This conclusions of the Council on the contribution of sport to the economic stability and growth, and socially inclusive communities maintaining during high levels of youth unemployment. The number of calculations and the evidence increases on what proportion of European and Member States' economies creates a sport. Lithuania has already started counting the contribution of sport to the economy and we plan to present the preliminary results during the informal events. In these conclusions, we will seek to show how the sport sector contributes to the economic growth and reduce unemployment, as well as how it plays an important role in creating and maintaining a sense of community and social cohesion, which is essential for the stability during a difficult economic period. All this makes a significant contribution to the Europe 2020 Strategy.

We cannot remain indifferent to the now highly topical problem of youth unemployment - youth unemployment rates in the EU exceeds 20 percent. In some countries even 50 percent. Young people are our future, which we need to take care of now. Otherwise, we will soon have many youth who doesn’t have any activities who may add to marginalized, extreme groups, so we would have increased t level of criminality, fragmented societies. Namely sports activities provide excellent opportunities for young people, particularly through volunteering, to acquire certain skills and abilities, such as teamwork, leadership, discipline, initiative, creativity, entrepreneurship, organizational skills, etc., which are valued in today's job market. In addition, the sport as a communal activity helps solve social problems. Even a small investment into sports infrastructure or local sport clubs can bring tremendous benefits and significantly contribute to stronger, safer communities, and thus a stronger Europe, development.

For the political debates in the Council have planned another important topic - principals of good governance in sport. This topic is important in improving skills of sports federations management, ethics in sport, in other words, to preserve the fairness and integrity of the sport. Good governance in sport - it is a condition of sport organization's autonomy and self-regulation. If sports organizations are able to operate in accordance with the basic principles of good governance, such as managerial skills, financial and operational transparency and accountability, then they can act freely and independently, without government oversight.

Of course, we will focus on anti-doping issues - anti-doping problem has always been, and is, and will remain relevant, so it is very important that the European Union should have a strong voice, should speak unanimously about their positions and the questions raised by the World Anti-Doping Organisation (WADA) delivered a coordinated manner. Therefore, we will coordinate positions of Member States for that main anti-doping organization (WADA) and the Council of Europe. We will pay a particular attention to the World Anti-Doping Code review. On this issue we will provide a coordinated EU position in the World Conference on Doping in Sport in November in Johannesburg.

Also, we will deal with the question about the fight against match performance issues – this problem as doping’s one, poses a serious threat to the integrity of sport. Therefore, it is important actively participate in the Council of the International Convention against the manipulation of sports performance training. Thank you fellows from Ireland that they had reached the agreement of the parties on the mandate for the Commission to represent the European Union issues in the preparation of Convention of Council of Europe. We will seek to confirm the rest part of the document on the mandate. Also, we will hold consultations and exchange of information between the EU institutions and Member States.

Talking about the Sports Council meetings, the next meeting is planned to take place in Brussels on November 26. But before it - an informal ministerial meeting will be held in Vilnius on 1 October. There we will focus on sports, especially big sporting events, and the contribution to the economy.

I would also like to note that, prior to the informal meeting of Ministers of Sport, on the 30 of September the Commission will organize sports forum. We welcome and appreciate that both for Lithuanian and European community important event will take place in Vilnius.

Presidency in the field of sport we will finish with sports meeting of the Directors General in Kaunas on December 2-3, where we plan to launch a debate on the future work plan for sport (which will take effect from middle of 2014.

Thus, we expect a smooth presidency and, of course, cooperation, joint development of a common foundation for sports and enhancing the sport as a sector, and the importance and we wait for your here, in Vilnius. Hopefully, with the help of the EU institutions and the support and successful cooperation between Member States we will achieve the objectives of the Presidency. We are ready to work hard. I believe that the presidency will be a successful and useful for all member states.

Thank you for your attention. 

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