EU Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou visits London

Labour Party

Visiting London last week, EU Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou praised the Evening Standard’s Get London Reading campaign. Mrs Vassiliou told the Standard: “In Europe we have a big problem with one in five 15 year olds reading at a very low level. Literacy is not just about reading, it is the foundation for life…..The Evening Standard campaign is unique in that it is the only newspaper-led literacy initiative in Europe.”

My report on early school leaving, recently agreed by the European Parliament Culture and Education Committee, is obviously relevant to the Standard’s campaign. Lack of literacy skills make leaving school without qualifications much more likely and then hinder the young person’s job prospects. We all need to be able to read and write. Since many years ago I volunteered for the On the Move adult literacy campaign, I have a special interest in this.

As part of her visit to London, Mrs Vassiliou spoke at WorldSkills 2011, the largest gathering of trainees and apprentices in the world, held this year at the Excel Centre in Newham. Mrs Vassiliou spoke not only about the importance of vocational training but also pointed out the mismatch between educational outcomes and employers’ expectations.   

I was privileged to join her on the platform for the discussion panel and to back up the Commissioner in her call for improved language teaching in Britain. Another panel member, rugby player Simon Hunt, supported us and told the audience that living in France for three years had widened his perspective as well as providing a valuable skill. 

 Posts about the appalling level of foreign language learning and the inability of most Britons to speak anything other than English have regularly appeared on this blog. Having the major international language as your mother tongue is no excuse. Native English speakers who master other languages open up a whole range of employment options for themselves as well as gaining insights into another country and culture. Our monolingualism sells us short. Let’s make a big effort to do better.

Sport for all across Europe

Labour Party

Yesterday Culture Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou presented excellent new proposals to promote sport across the European Union. The main aim is to encourage sport at grassroots level, and athletes, sport organisations and the general public are expected to benefit from the plans.

Commissioner Vassiliou told a special press conference, “Sport is important for Europe’s economy….. The measures we have adopted today highlight sport’s contribution to our society and will help improve the way sport is run.”

The Commission’s paper “Developing the European Dimension in Sport”, covers three main areas: the role of sport in everyday life, its economic dimension, and the organisation of sport.

The main proposals will:

  • Consider EU accession to the Anti-Doping Convention of the Council of Europe
  • Develop European guidelines on combined sports training and general education
  • Develop and implement security arrangements and safety requirements for international sport events
  • Continue progress toward national guidelines
  • Develop standards for accessibility of sport organisations, activities, events and venues
  • Promote women’s access to leadership positions in sport.
  • Support sporting associations to establish mechanisms for the collective selling of media rights to ensure adequate redistribution of revenues;
  • Find ways of exchanging good practices for transparent and sustainable sport financing          
  • Look at how sport can be better funded from the Structural Funds
  • Work towards comparable statistical data on sport for all Member States
  • Promote good governance in sport while taking into account its specific nature
  • Launch a study on transfer rules and provide guidance on that basis
  • Issue guidance on how to reconcile EU rules on the free movement of citizens with the organisation of competitions in individual sports on a national basis
  • Consider further action regarding the activities of sports agents
  • Support social partners and sport organisations to create an EU-level social dialogue for the sport and leisure sector

 I am very much looking forward to debating the Commission’s plans in the Culture and Education Committee. This is a strong initiative on sport and will benefit very many people across Europe. Since the proposals cover grassroots sport while also looking at ways at ending some of the problematic behaviour associated with some games at the professional level, the Commission document is both timely and comprehensive.  The Culture Committee will, I am sure, look at all aspects of sport with a view to improving on the current situation.