The Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU is drawing to a close; only slightly more than a month is left for Estonia to play this very responsible leading role. Minister of Culture Indrek Saar explains below what the Estonian Presidency achieved in the field of culture and sport, and what conclusions were reached and agreements concluded at the ministerial level.
Europe is not only about economy and the single market, but also by what we create, listen to and play. Culture, art and sport is the glue that binds our communities together. They create a sense of belonging and contribute to healthy, inclusive and cohesive societies.
At the meeting of the EU ministers of culture and sport on 21 November, we emphasised that, in these challenging time for Europe, it is even more important that we increase our efforts to help citizens to participate in such activities.
While playing a leading role in the European Union during the past six months of the Estonian Presidency, the Ministry of Culture has focused on two key topics. In culture, we have concentrated on issues that are related to promoting access to culture and heritage with the help of digital devices. Here, the emphasis has been on educating the public. At the cultural heritage conference in Tartu that took place at our initiative in July, we discussed the role of cultural institutions in the digital age, as well as how to involve the public so that cultural organisations do not relinquish their important role in society.
In the field of sport, our attention has been focused on increasing the importance of coaches in society. At the sport conferences of our Presidency held in Tallinn in July and in Tartu in September, we received approving feedback from throughout Europe confirming that we are on the right track, and that the topic of coaches requires more attention and support. Coaches can help to solve many social challenges, including people’s ever-increasing lack of mobility, integration, consolidation of communities, involvement of people with special needs, gender equality, and much more.
In the audiovisual field, we have had the responsibility of conducting complicated negotiations between the Council of the EU and the European Parliament, in order to move closer to achieving an agreement regarding the updating of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which is essential for Europe. The purpose of updating the directive is to create a more equal legal space for media services in Europe, which would also take technological developments into account and be more secure for the users. What could the present and future of the audiovisual media landscape look like? To find the answer, the fields’ leading experts gathered in Tallinn this week to discuss the key questions and outlooks for television, as well as the media and film industries.
The Presidency culminated with a meeting of the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council that focused on cultural and sports issues and concluded in Brussels last week on November 21st. At the meeting, the ministers of culture and sport ratified the conclusions that were reached in our priority topics. The council emphasised the importance of increasing the availability of culture by digital means, and especially, the opportunities provided by new technologies for cultural organisations to better communicate with the public now and in the future.
With our colleagues, we also discussed the role of culture in developing cohesive societies, and primarily what can be done together at the European level. The exchange of ideas among the culture ministers was introduced by Helen Sildna, the founder of Tallinn Music Week, who gave an inspirational speech titled ‘Culture and Creativity – A Tool for Change and Inclusion’. In her presentation, Sildna emphasised that the European cultural sector can make a considerable contribution to solving social problems and today’s global challenges. She called upon the EU ministers of culture to make sure that cultural policy motivates the cultural sector to accept greater social responsibility and provide support for both smaller initiatives and innovation.
The sport council ratified the conclusions related to the role of coaches in society and a resolution related to the further development of a sport-related dialogue in the European Union between the member states, institutions and sport organisations.
The ministers of sport in the council were especially pleased that, at Estonia’s invitation, we were able to welcome Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee, for the first time at a meeting of the council, to discuss the main challenges of sport for the 21st century. The discussion included the trustworthiness of sport, its management and contribution to society. We all acknowledged that sport can play an increasingly important social role in the development of a cohesive society.
President Bach highly praised the priorities of the Estonian Presidency in the field of sport – the role of coaches as teachers of values in the society and sport. Speaking about the main challenges facing sport in the 21st century, the president of the International Olympic Committee emphasised that it is extremely important to maintain the European sport model, which is based on values and volunteers. He emphasised that if we only approach sport from a business viewpoint, it loses its social dimension and value for the community.
Leading the Council of the EU in the fields of cultural, audiovisual and sport fields has been a very enriching experience. We can say convincingly that we have successfully completed our matriculation exam for the European Union. We are sure that the topics raised during the Estonian Presidency and the conclusions ratified by the council in culture and sport will help us move forward faster toward a more inclusive, cohesive and physically active society.
Additional information on the council’s agenda and background materials, incl. photo and video materials are available on the Council of the EU website (PDF).