Member of the European Commission responsible for Education and Culture
Enhancing the dialogue between sports and politics in Europe
11th Forum Sports Forum
Copenhague, 7 November 2002
Secretary of State,
President of the European Olympic Committees,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year, once again, we are meeting at the European Sport Forum. This annual gathering, which used to be attended by just a few people, has become an essential event for all those who play a role in European sport. That is why I am glad to be among you again.
I should like to start by thanking our Danish hosts and, in particular, Minister Mikkelsen for the quality of the organisational work and the warm welcome.
Denmark is a country with a sporting tradition. And I know that very many Danes are involved in this tradition. Voluntary work is not an empty term here. The Danish fabric of sport is based on this concept, which covers an enormous amount of good will and individual commitment. In a sense, what is happening in Denmark is a perfect illustration of the values that I wish to promote: the values of sport that creates social ties and is a vector for solidarity and a source of enjoyment on a daily basis; sport anchored in society, really established at grassroots level.
It is no coincidence that, during this Presidency, you, Minister, have made it your top policy priority to defend and promote voluntary work. You have worked with determination on a draft declaration that will be discussed at the next meeting of Ministers in Aarhus on 21 and 22 November 2002 . As European Commissioner responsible for sport, I cannot but give you my full backing in this initiative. To my mind, it is fully in keeping with the Commission's philosophy on sport, and with that of the Council, as asserted at the Nice European Council.
Our considerations of the question of sport have a higher profile this year because they are related to a number of other major processes of reflection in other forums. As you know, Europe is thinking about its future. And, when I say Europe, I am talking not only about the European institutions but about all the forces that make up Europe States and State authorities in general, industrial and trading partners, civil society and, of course, sporting organisations.
This process of reflection, although it is open to all contributions, is intended to be organised, and this is the major role of the "Convention", whose work is regularly commented on throughout Europe. This Convention, chaired by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, is designed to propose structures and a framework for the European Union that are adapted to world developments, to the needs of European citizens and to the future development of the European Union. The Convention, which was set up at the end of the Laeken European Council, in December 2001, is an innovation in our working methods, since it brings together representatives of governments, national parliaments, the European Parliament and the European Commission. When it completes its work, in 2003, the Convention will submit its proposals to the European Council, which regularly brings together the Heads of State and Government of the Member States of the Union. The next Intergovernmental Conference will work on this basis.
Much of what affects our future, in all its components, and especially that of our daily areas of interest, is currently being discussed, and will be discussed, in this Convention. We therefore need to pay particularly close attention to developments in the Convention and take action, each at his own level, to ensure that what comes out of this process of reflection is a Europe with which all citizens can identify.
I myself am convinced that sport has a role to play in the new Europe that is taking shape. Sport is an instrument of active citizenship and participation. What is more, it concerns and affects a considerable majority of Europeans, of all age groups and occupational or socio-cultural categories. Its impact is considerable in media terms, but also in social and economic terms. So how is it possible to conceive of a Europe that is closer to citizens but from which sport is absent?
The general background to our considerations of the issue of sport is also the enlargement of the European Union and the reform of the Community institutions. These two huge projects will necessarily have an impact on sport. What about enlargement? As you know, the Commission has just recommended that accession negotiations be concluded with ten candidate countries. Romano Prodi stated in this connection that "the historic project of unifying our continent to ensure peace, stability and democracy in Europe is within our reach", adding: "I am confident that the European Council will endorse our recommendations and thus pave the way for concluding the negotiations at the end of this year".
To my mind, this enlargement is "good news" for the friends of European sport, and I should like to take this opportunity to welcome the presence of the Ministers of Sport and representatives of sport of the candidate countries, which confirms just how interested these countries are in sport in Europe.
Accordingly, major sporting nations will be joining the European Union, bringing with them a substantial sports heritage and a genuine culture of sport. I have in mind, although this is purely anecdotal, the three "mythic" goal medals of Emil Zatopek at the Helsinki Olympic Games in 1952. Soon, as a result of enlargement, very many top sportsmen and -women will be able to take full advantage of the rules of freedom of movement in force in the Community.
2003 will be a key year in this process of preparation for enlargement, and I should already like to express a personal wish for next year, that our next forum, which will be held under the Italian Presidency, should have enlargement as its main theme. Everything must be done to ensure that our new partners are welcomed under optimum conditions, and I shall do all I can, at my level, to see to it that this is the case.
I also set particular store by another current topic, namely the intercultural dialogue, which, incidentally, is assuming particular importance as we look ahead to enlargement. Sport must play its part in improving understanding between cultures. It should support our efforts at integration in our societies, and our concern to increase people's knowledge and experience of the riches of our different cultures. And I know that, in Denmark, I am preaching to the converted on this point. Indeed, it is in a Danish work, written by Karen Blixen, that I have read some of the most wonderful words about tolerance, openness to others and other cultures and mutual understanding.
That was what I wanted to say about the background. I should now like to take stock of what has happened in 2002.
The European Year of Education through Sport, first of all.
I presented this initiative to you last year and was particularly pleased with the way in which you welcomed it. In 2002, the formal procedure for the adoption of the proposal took its course, and the signals were very positive at all levels European Parliament, Council, Committee of the Regions, Economic and Social Committee. We are now in the home straight, and I am confident that the procedure will be completed by the end of the year.
I cannot but repeat what I said at the European Parliament on 13 May 2002: "I really feel that we are close to achieving our goal and have embarked on a process that will lead us to something great and important for our societies, but also, above all, for the young people in our societies". I do not wish to water this statement down at all because much is at stake. In 2004, we shall have the opportunity to take a great step forward in the promotion of sport and its educational values.
The "sport, schools and Olympic ideals" measure is also a step forward. You will recall that I signed an agreement last year, on behalf of the European Commission, with Mr Rogge, the President of the IOC. The aim was to promote sport and the ethical and citizenship values of sport in schools. And this project, too, has gained ground. It was "tested" in the 2001-2002 academic year in some 6 000 schools in Italy, the Netherlands and France. It is considered to have been a great success. And I am counting on your assistance to extend this operation to all the Member States from next year. This is an example of a specific measure to promote sport at school.
We have also continued to support projects put forward by sporting organisations and public authorities.
€5 million was spent on anti-doping measures last year. This year, a further €5 million will be spent on anti-doping projects, but also on projects for improving the promotion of sport among young people.
The Commission had intended to set up an anti-doping programme, but this has been postponed for the time being because of budgetary constraints. Nevertheless we are making considerable efforts in this area, which remains a priority for us. And we are willing, as we have proved, to support all those who are determined to make progress in this area. Moreover, we have embarked on excellent cooperation in this sphere with the candidate countries, and with the Euro-Mediterranean area, for doping is an international phenomenon that cannot be dealt with in the Community context alone.
Finally, my colleagues and I, including Commissioners Mario Monti and Anna Diamantopoulou, have continued to work on the "horizontal" dimension of sport in Community policies: freedom of movement for sportsmen and -women, competition rules, audio-visual matters, but also social policy, regional development and the environment - I have in mind, for example, the decisions (that have had positive repercussions on the environment and the cultural heritage) concerning the development of the Marathon-Schinias site for the Athens Games in 2004.
Over the past year, a number of decisions have been adopted that have always taken account of the "specific characteristics" of sport, as emphasised in the Declaration of Nice. I shall mention, for example, the completion of the investigation into the UEFA multi-ownership rule for football clubs, or our favourable position on UEFA's new policy for selling the media rights to the Champions League, and I could go on. In each case, the application of Community law has helped to modernise sports regulations.
I should like to pass on a message to you in this connection. The Bosman judgment and the ensuing decisions of the Court of Justice have made it possible for us to resolve the issues of freedom of movement for professional sportsmen and -women. The rules are now clear. They give sportsmen and -women rights that are equivalent to those of other workers.
But there is a lot of work to be done concerning amateur sportsmen and -women. The Commission is receiving an increasing number of letters or complaints about the obstacles encountered by amateur sportsmen, many of them young sportsmen, in their sporting life. Nationality criteria continue to exist, and surprising rules make it difficult or impossible to change clubs or, quite simply, to play one's sport in another State. Imagine a student who receives an Erasmus grant - in other words, support from Europe - to study for a year in another country but who cannot continue to play his sport in that country!
The importance of this subject in terms of citizenship leads me to launch a formal appeal to the Member States and sports federations to analyse this problem and take the appropriate measures in order to put an end to these practices. I believe that our compatriots expect us all to set up a genuine European area of freedom, and it would be hard to explain that the people's Europe allows us to be elected in a municipality of another Member State but not to play our favourite sport there.
The response is largely up to you.
It will also be up to you, in a few moments' time, to make the most of this forum, which is interesting and valuable mainly for the dialogue and work in its workshops, as you know.
Three topics are on the agenda: the European Year of Education through Sport; voluntary work; and the consideration of sport in Community policies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I should like to open this forum with two watchwords: participation and solidarity. The sporting world must contribute to the development of the Community, as it must remain united. If solidarity is guaranteed between all the protagonists of sport, and if sport turns its sights resolutely to the future, as it is already doing to a considerable extent, we shall be able to do a lot of good work together.
Sport has enormous potential. It has a major role to play in the intercultural dialogue. It is a factor of social solidarity and active citizenship. I believe that this is where our Community work provides genuine added value.
I wish you a productive meeting.
Thank you for your attention.