As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Minister of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Türkiye, Minister Kasapoğlu,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I begin by congratulating the Turkish authorities for the excellent organisation and great success of this Conference –
Ministers, you have shared important views and reflections with us today, and agreed the Resolutions that will now help to shape our work, in the years to come.
Those resolutions – on Sport for All and Rethinking Sport – are very much in line with the Council of Europe’s strategic priorities and the revised European Sports Charter, adopted by our member states last year.
Why does this matter?
And why especially right now?
It matters because, at their best, sports and democracy share the same philosophy.
Equality, transparency, inclusion.
An opportunity for people to work together, to strive for excellence, and to win or lose on the basis of fair and established rules.
But democracy is under attack.
The obvious and extreme example is the Russian’s Federation’s military invasion of Ukraine.
A cruel, unjust, and utterly unacceptable war that has brought terrible suffering and new divisions within our continent.
And our thoughts go today to the brave Ukrainian people and their President and Government.
But this attack was also an attack on the broader values that we share throughout democratic Europe.
It is an attack on what we stand for, what we believe in.
Our response must be to do everything we can to support Ukraine and uphold vibrant, secure and free democratic societies in Europe and beyond.
This means reassembling the core building blocks of democracy –
And constructing something stronger and more resilient than ever before.
Fair elections, freedom of expression, independent judiciaries, separation of powers, execution of judgments, a strong and vibrant civil society, free media.
All of these are the core building blocks of our democracy.
We need also to connect democratic values to citizens’ everyday lives –
And there is no more popular– no greater enabler– than supporting and participating in sports.
So, we need the governance and practice of sports to set the best of democratic examples.
A revised European Sports Charter that champions the right to sport – sports for all –
And strategic priorities that include human rights-centred, values-driven and corruption-free sport in the interests of everyone.
Today, through our joint efforts, we have taken another important step in that direction.
But it must be one step out of many.
The best of sports can only be achieved through the greatest of effort.
But the good news is that the tools required already exist.
Take for example, the Council of Europe’s Anti-doping Convention and our recent recommendation on fair anti-doping proceedings.
Between them, so much can be done to tackle the problem of illegal drug use in sports, while respecting the rights of athletes.
Take also the Saint Denis Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events.
And of course the Macolin Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, which is designed to eliminate the corruption that undermines that most precious commodity – trust.
So, I can only say how pleased I am today that both Türkiye and North Macedonia have taken the opportunity of this Conference to sign the Macolin Convention.
And I want to encourage other countries here today to reflect on which convention you might now go on to sign and ratify.
After all, along with the sports-related judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the work of our monitoring bodies, like the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), these treaties form a set of comprehensive support that can only help us raise the conduct and reputation of sports in our societies and across our continent as a whole -as well as beyond Europe.
By joining our EPAS, our Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sports, you can also play your part in setting policy and steering further progress towards a better future.
Your hands can join others on the steering wheel.
Finally, I want to assure you that the whole of the Council of Europe – and our partners – are united in our determination to ensure a stronger and more human rights centred future for sports.
This is true of the Committee of Ministers which steers all our intergovernmental work that I mentioned earlier –
And also of the Parliamentary Assembly.
In January this year, an important debate took place on the report “Football governance: business and values” prepared by Lord George Foulkes (United-Kingdom), leading to the adoption of a resolution and a recommendation that should also inspire our future work.
And just two weeks ago, a public hearing was conducted on the protection of worker’s rights in Qatar, with the participation of ILO, FIFA and the Qatari authorities.
Other international organisations are also partnering with us to maximise impact –
Not least the European Union whose support for recent projects on gender equality, safeguarding children’s rights and combating hate speech in sports has been extremely valuable.
Ultimately, we will only succeed if we approach this in the same spirit as the best of sportsmen and women –
If we harness all of our talents to produce the finest of teamwork.
Including: national authorities, international organisations, and the extraordinary range of sports organisations, including major players like the IOC, and UEFA and FIFA with which we have memoranda of understanding that aim to reinforce the integrity of sports.
Similarly, when it comes to combating doping in sport around the world, our co-operation with WADA, the sport movement and the athletes themselves, and the public authorities of the five continents is key.
So, I hope that the progress made here today will lead to even greater things in the years to come –
And that when we meet for our 18th Ministerial Session in Portugal, we will be able to reflect on the further progress that has been made.
In the interests of sporting men and women, children, spectators and the democratic culture on which we all depend.
Thank you very much for your attention.