Exclusive interview with Tibor Navracsics

Exclusive interview with Tibor Navracsics

This exclusive interview is part of a special series meant to celebrate EOSE’s 15th Anniversary!

Tibor Navracsics is the European Commissioner for Education, Culture Youth and Sport . As part of the EOSE’s 15th Anniversary special campaign, it is a pleasure and an honour that he agreed to contribute highlighting key challenges and opportunities in terms of sport policies in the European Union.

Enjoy the read!


Your portfolio is very broad and potentially encompasses all the seeds needed for a better future for the European Union which so far has mainly been built on economic integration. How do you think these 4 pillars “Education, Culture, Youth and Sport” can work better together and be soon recognised by all as a full component of the EU raison d’être?

TN: “We need to build resilience in Europe: at the individual level, as well as at the economic and social levels. This is crucial for us to overcome the deep structural challenges facing us – and to seize new opportunities. A strong Europe also needs to be built on a sense of belonging, a shared European identity – a European identity that does not threaten, but that complements and enriches our other identities.
The policy areas I am responsible for – education, culture, youth and sport – have a big role to play in building resilience, most importantly by empowering people, and in fostering a European identity. They help us provide basic and high-level skills and competences, reduce inequalities, promote entrepreneurial mind-sets and build inclusive societies.
We must work harder to ensure that all people can benefit from the opportunities the EU has to offer in these areas, including those who feel left behind, people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and refugees and migrants arriving in Europe. We need to pay special attention to young people. We need to reach out to them in schools and universities, in youth and sports clubs, in the cultural and creative sectors.
I am proud to see that sport policy has made progress in recent years. Since I took up office in November 2014, I have been focusing on areas such as promoting healthy lifestyles, boosting grassroots sport, supporting social inclusion through sport as well as establishing an approach for sport diplomacy. I will continue to promote the role of sport and physical activity in fostering positive change.”


The Erasmus+ Programme is very much related to your portfolio, how do you see its evolution and what do you think of the “ErasmusX10” campaign which aims to get a 10-time increase of the Erasmus+ budget?
TN: “The 30th anniversary of Erasmus, which we celebrated throughout 2017, was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the impact of this EU success story. We have seen many people, institutions, politicians and other key personalities embrace the Erasmus+ programme as a fundamental tool for European integration. This message provides a solid basis for my position as we prepare the future generation of budgetary programmes for the period after 2020.
In November 2017, the Commission adopted a Communication “Strengthening European identity through education and culture”. This policy document, which EU leaders discussed at their meeting at the Social Summit in Gothenburg, outlines ambitious objectives for our cooperation with Member States in education and culture. One of these objectives it to double the number of young people in the EU participating in Erasmus+ by 2025, from 3.7% to 7.5%, which would require doubling the budget for the programme to EUR 29.4 billion in the period 2021-2027.
This would be the minimum increase we need to work towards enabling many more people to benefit from Erasmus+. In particular, I want to ensure that we open the programme up even more to people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and that we make it possible for more school pupils to go abroad. And of course, I want to create new opportunities in the sport strand, for instance for more international cooperation.”


Coming to the sport and physical activity sector, could you let us know the situation concerning the use of the recommendations from the High Level Group on Sport Diplomacy, for which the EOSE President, Mr Thierry Zintz contributed and acted as co-rapporteur? What is your vision and objectives for the next 2 years on this very specific topic?
TN: “The work undertaken by the High Level Group of sport diplomacy has laid the foundations for the work on sport diplomacy. The final report, in which Professor Thierry Zintz played a major role, has given us excellent ideas on which we are now working. I am very pleased that Member States are supporting us in our efforts. Thanks to the Slovak Presidency, Council Conclusions on sport diplomacy were adopted in November 2016. On the Commission’s side, we have started making the Erasmus+ programme more accessible to partnerships with third countries. We have also started a process of cooperation with major external partners such as China. Last November, for the first time ever, the subject of sport was on the agenda of the EU China High Level People to People dialogue. Building on the report of the High Level Group, the international dimension of sport has become a permanent pillar of EU sports policy. In the next two years I intend to further strengthen it and I would like to see more concrete projects with our international partners.”


How do you think sport can fulfil its social, health and economic potential in Europe and play a more significant role in helping the EU to reach its external policy goals?
TN: “Sport is a large and fast-growing sector of our economy that already accounts for around 3% of Europe’s total GDP and about 3.5% of employment in the EU. The EU promotes the economic development of the sport sector, especially through tourism, fitness, media and education, the four most important aspects of the sports economy. Sport also has an immense power to connect people, which makes it a natural part of international relations. Personally, I have always believed in the key role sport can play in external relations, and this is why I set up this High Level Group on Sport Diplomacy. The latest EU Work Plan for Sport adopted by the Council in May 2017 has formalised this relatively new development, which for me is yet another important step in giving sport diplomacy its right place at EU level.
Our international partners follow EU sport policy with interest. Three years ago I launched the first European Week of Sport. Since then, it has steadily grown, and our partners are asking to join. I am happy to announce that already in 2018 Western Balkans and Eastern Partnerships countries are invited to join our European Week of Sport!”


EOSE mission statement is “To facilitate and support the development of the sport and physical activity sector workforce, in bringing education and employment together, to ensure people working and volunteering have the skills and competences to perform and thereby to enable the sector to fulfil its potential”. To what extent do you consider it crucial for the sport and physical activity sector to have a workforce equipped with the right skills and competences and to adopt a promising and relevant approach to workforce development for both staff and volunteers? What would you recommend as short term priorities to achieve such ambition?
TN: “Qualifications and skills expected from sport coaches, trainers, volunteers and sport staff in general have deeply evolved. We are now far away from the old model where technical ability was enough. Nowadays, I consider that a coach must be first of all an educator. They are also responsible for teaching values, social inclusion, integration in a community and being a successful member of society.
This issue has been high on the EU agenda in 2017. The Council adopted conclusions on the role of coaches with recommendations directly addressing the sport movement. Member States agreed to support educational programmes and promotional campaigns that aim to increase the number of competent coaches and to enable them to integrate the labour market.
The Commission supports Member States and sport organisations to reinforce the skills and competences of coaches, sport staff and volunteers through policy cooperation, expert groups and project financing.
We have recently opened up the Erasmus+ programme to projects promoting education in and through sport with special focus on skills development. As a result 15 large and 21 small projects have been financed by a total of EUR 6.5 million in 2017. The Commission also supports networks of grassroots sport organisations aiming at the development of the skills through sport in Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Spain.
It is encouraging for me to see that our efforts in this field are also supported by competent organisations such as EOSE.


EOSE is celebrating its 15th Anniversary in December 2017 and has been advocating and facilitating collaborative action for skills development in the sport and physical activity sector since its inception. What is your feedback on the work carried out by EOSE and its network on the development and recognition of skills and the promotion of learning mobility? Do you have any special anniversary message for the organisation?
TN: “My message is very simple: please keep up the good work! It is thanks to organisations like yours that we can implement our policies and our political priorities. In particular, skills development is a priority for the European Commission, so I very much look forward to continue working with you on this important topic.”


Interview by Carole Ponchon, EOSE European PR & Projects manager

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EOSE – European Observatoire of Sport and Employment

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