On 29 June 2016, the high-level reflection group on sport diplomacy, which had been set up under the leadership of Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, submitted its final report in a so-called “handover ceremony” in Brussels. in the ten months of its existence, the expert group met seven times, consulted a dozen of international officials, activists and researchers, and worked in close collaboration on the list of recommendations that are now in the hands of the Commissioner.
Can sport be put to good use in the European Union’s external relations? And if yes, how exactly? These are the principal questions on which the report is based. Albrecht Sonntag, professor at the EU-Asia Institute and member of the expert group, recalls that sport has, for decades, been a national prerogative, but since the entry into force of the current Lisbon Treaty, the European Union has also been given competence in this field:
“Of course, there is no interest for the Union to enter into ‘competition’ with its member-states, but sport provides a field in which the EU has the potential to build credibility as a velue-driven actor in global sports, precisely because it is not a nation-state pursuing narrow interests of national prestige. What the EU must focus on in its sport-related activities, is credible embodiment and patient promotion of the fundamental values both of sport and the European Union itself: respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, inclusion of people with disabilities the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. This is particularly interesting with regard to its relations with neighbours or emerging countries.”
And the experience of cooperation in such a diverse group?
“It was highly enriching. And it was a true learning experience: the leadership skills of the group’s rapporteurs Thierry Zintz (from the Catholic University of Louvain) and Valérie Fourneyron, the former French minister of sports and youth, has been most inspiring.”
The full report can be downloaded here.