Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
Cohesion policy and uniting divided communities: The experience of football
OPEN DAYS – Press Panel – Salle Schuman
Brussels, 6 October 2010
Ladies and gentlemen
Sport has a long history. However, recognition of the social value of sport is more recent.
We now see that thanks to sport, and particularly football given its popularity, the perception of specific groups can be changed and stigma and discrimination overcome. Sport can also build self-confidence and provide opportunities to develop social in addition to physical skills.
It can also help in uniting communities that have suffered from deprivation, conflict and violence. In Europe this is a realization that came first at local level, especially in problem-ridden urban areas and regions. Now, with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union has recognised the social and educational value of sport.
In this regard, we will establish a more systematic and coordinated policy approach through an EU Sport Agenda – which I will present before the end of the year.
This does not mean that we had to wait for the coming into force of the Treaty to act. Just to give you an example, in the recent past the Youth in Action programme has funded hundreds of projects that rely on sport to promote active citizenship and social inclusion.
We are also funding a number of preparatory actions, to identify priorities and the means to support innovative projects and networks in the near future. This summer we launched a second call for proposals for financial support for sport projects, where one of the priority areas is social inclusion and migrant groups. And I am happy to be able to tell you that interest in these projects is very high, with more that 150 applications.
I am convinced that Europe can add value in this field, also bringing various actors together to share best practice and exchange experiences.
Events such as today's offer the opportunity to draw attention to some very important football-related projects funded by the Structural Funds in Northern Ireland and Romania.
They constitute examples of how European policy-makers can team up with the sport movement and civil society and provide the impetus for social change.
This is the sort of partnership that we want to develop further and to really bring to fruition through our new competence in the Treaty of Lisbon and on the basis of the unrivalled potential of sport as a vehicle for social change.
Thank you for your attention.