Brussels, 8 September 2008
Sport: Commission to reinforce co-operation with European Paralympic Committee to foster social inclusion of people with disabilities
On the occasion of an official visit to Beijing to attend the Paralympic Games, the European Commissioner responsible for sport, Ján Figel', today signed a Joint Declaration with the President of the European Paralympic Committee (EPC), Mr Enrique Sánchez-Guijo. The declaration celebrates the granting of financial support to the EPC through the "Europe for Citizens" programme of the European Union. In conformity with the Paralympic values promoted by the EPC, this support comes as recognition of the importance of sport in strengthening social integration and supporting the active involvement of all citizens in the process of European construction.
Commissioner Figel’ said: “The European Union is above all a community of values and fundamental rights. Right at the top of these are the principles of equal treatment for all citizens and the non-acceptance of any form of discrimination, and the individual’s right to play a full part in economic and social life, including leisure activities and sport. Sport not only offers people with disabilities opportunities to develop their personal skills and talents, but it also helps with their integration in society, and increases their self-confidence and social acknowledgment."
The Commissioner is in Beijing to attend the opening of the 2008 Paralympic Games, where he will also visit some sport competitions and meet the President of the International Paralympic Committee, Sir Philip Craven.
The Beijing declaration supporting Paralympic Sport and the work of the European Paralympic Committee recalls the important role played by civil society organisations in bringing Europe closer to its citizens with disabilities and enabling them to participate fully in society.
The main EU-level instrument for coordinating efforts to improve the life of disabled people is the European Disability Strategy. Its ultimate objective is to promote equality of opportunities and to facilitate access to rights for all people with disabilities. These principles are implemented through the European Disability Action Plan, which ensures an effective follow-up to the 2003 European Year of People with Disabilities and provides a valuable framework for ensuring continual dialogue with the main stakeholders, as well as relevant and targeted initiatives.
The White Paper on Sport, adopted by the Commission in 2007, reaffirms these principles and invites the relevant players, notably EU Member States and local authorities, to do their best to adapt sport infrastructures to take into account the needs of people with disabilities. In the White Paper, the Commission also encourages the training of monitors, volunteers and staff, so that sportspeople with disabilities can practice their favourite discipline under the best conditions.
A number of Commission activities for disabled persons have involved sport. The European Year of People with Disabilities 2003 financed sports events, and as part of the European Year of Education through Sport 2004, several projects on the integration of people with disabilities through sports were funded. The Commission organised an experts’ meeting on equal opportunities in sport in 2005 to identify key needs, trends, and fields of action. The EU's Youth programme has also supported sport activities for young people with disabilities.
The European Paralympic Committee (EPC), an international non-profit-making organisation, is part of the world-wide Paralympic movement. The EPC is responsible for co-ordinating and overseeing European Championships in a number of Paralympic sports, and the development of disability sports in Europe. In April 2008, the European Paralympic Committee received an operating grant from the European Commission in the framework of the "Europe for Citizens" Programme. In 2008, the grant amounts to € 110,000 (equivalent to 67% of the running costs of the EPC for this year) and has contributed to building the operational capacity of the EPC office based in Vienna. A framework agreement between the Commission and the EPC includes an option for a same level of grant funding in 2009.
To know more:
Europe for Citizens programme: http://ec.europa.eu/citizenship/index_en.html
People with disabilities: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=429&langId=en
European Paralympic Committee (EPC): http://www.europaralympic.org/