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Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
"The Lisbon Treaty and Sport – a new EU agenda"
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EU Sport Forum 2010 – Joint Panel Sport Forum and Sport Ministers
Madrid, 20 April 2010
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to open this joint panel.
Let me first of all give a warm thank you to Jaime Lissavetzky, State Secretary for Sport, for bringing us to the beautiful city of Madrid and for co-organising with us the European Sport Forum and the ministerial meeting.
Occasions like these, where the sport movement and public authorities meet together at such high level, are rare; we should seize this opportunity and make the most of our discussions.
I know you had very intense and fruitful debates at the Forum yesterday. I am delighted that the richness and diversity of the sport movement is represented here today; I want to thank all of you for your presence and your contribution to our work.
Sport – uniting, empowering, achieving
Ladies and gentlemen,
Sport, like nothing else, empowers people. It has the potential to inspire and motivate, since it shines a light on what people can do, rather than what they cannot do.
It has universal popularity: it is fun for everyone, whether taking part or watching from the sidelines.
And it is no accident that the words 'United' and 'Union' feature in so many team names. Sport connects people and communities. It knows no distinctions of race, language or culture: in our sports uniform, we are all part of the same team.
Tackling the challenges through dialogue
As we all know, the Lisbon Treaty represents a new, and long-awaited, beginning for sport at European level. At last we can leave the starting-blocks.
Like any team going on to the pitch, however, we need a comprehensive discussion about the challenges we are faced with and about the way we want to tackle them.
So I am glad that we continue to exchange ideas about the issues surrounding sport at EU level.
We have established a highly productive dialogue with sport stakeholders and with Member States. Our dialogue has helped to bring us to this pivotal moment. Today, we need your views as representatives of the European Sport Movement. We also need to hear from the Member States; I am certain that the panel debate will produce valuable insights and ideas.
Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,
It is the right moment. The Commission has launched an internal reflection on how best to implement the Treaty provisions on sport. I will give flesh to these reflections by proposing two major initiatives this year, a political Communication and a draft decision for an EU Sport Programme. Let me just sketch out some ideas, before leaving the floor to the other speakers.
The Treaty – pointing the way forward for sport
The Treaty gives us soft powers, with clear objectives: to promote European sporting issues and to develop the European dimension in sport.
I look forward to developing a strategy for a new EU sport agenda with ministers, to give us the framework in which we can all work together. I will outline my proposals in the Communication. The Treaty already provides plenty of inspiration:
As well as developing a policy for sports per se, I certainly intend to get full value for sport from the many European policy areas that interact with sport. I want to encourage a mutually supportive approach. This makes sense, given the links with education, or health, or culture; and given the funding opportunities in the structural funds, which will continue to provide the bulk of financial support.
Focusing on EU value added
For a new competence, this is an ambitious agenda! And needless to say, our intention is not to replicate what is already done by Member States, by sport organisations, whether international, national or local. We need – and are looking to you for your ideas – to focus on areas where EU action will bring added value to what you already do.
It is clear that I have the intention to propose an EU sport programme that should provide an important added value to European sport. However, I would also like to make an unpleasant but necessary call to realism. We have to bear in mind that the existing margins in the current EU financial perspectives are very limited. Besides, the overall context of economic crisis we are experiencing in Europe does not exactly help. You will understand that under these circumstances we will be forced to set priorities and for this we need your help.
Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,
As we all know, Europe has been through its worst economic and financial crisis since the European Union was founded. The Commission's 'Europe 2020 Strategy' is pointing the way out of the crisis and towards new growth in Europe. Our ambition is to build a Union that is innovative and inclusive.
I believe that, in the sports arena, Europe is on the brink of a new opportunity –the opportunity to harness the potential of sport, and make sport one of the building blocks in creating this innovative, inclusive Europe.
I know there are many challenges on the way, but I am genuinely excited by the prospects ahead. I believe we can address these challenges together through cooperation and mutual respect.
I look forward to your ideas and your input on the best ways to put this cooperation into practice.