The reflection group at work in its meeting room in the Berlaymont.

The reflection group at work in its meeting room in the Berlaymont.

The European Commission has decided to set up a high-level reflection group on sport diplomacy. Under the leadership of Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, this group of fifteen international experts will assess the value of sport in the European Union’s external policies, and its role in public diplomacy in general. Questions of foreign policy, development cooperation and capacity building in third countries will be discussed.

Albrecht Sonntag, professor at the EU-Asia Institute, said he was ‘very honoured to have been invited to sit in this group’, which is expected to meet four times over the academic year 2015-2016 and to produce a report with recommendations to European policy-makers. Following the stimulating experience of the transnational FREE research project and his recent work on a forthcoming UNESCO report, he will once more work together with experts from different fields of activity and a variety of national origins.

Sport policy used to be a national prerogative, but since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union has also been given competence in this field.

According to Albrecht Sonntag, ‘the question is of course not whether there should be a European team at the Olympics or whether the Commission should work towards building a so-called European identity through sport. The question is rather how the European Union can make smart use of sport to reach its goals in external relations’.

The invitation to join the high-level group not only gives evidence to the fact that the EU-Asia Institute, thanks to its projects and publications, is ‘on the radar’ in Brussels, but also once more that the social sciences and humanities can serve society at large by reaching out of the academic ivory tower.

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