It is a great pleasure to open this conference.
Sports hold a unique place in the lives of many people.
And from cycling to gymnastics – to their beloved calcio – Italians have a wonderful, infectious enthusiasm for watching, supporting and participating in competition.
That enthusiasm is shared by people around the world.
But to maintain it, they must also be able to see that the sports they love are open, inclusive and honest.
They must be sure that there is fair play.
On this, Italy has a strong record of pushing for progress at the international level.
It has not only been active in the Council of Europe, but it has also helped ensure the adoption of important United Nations Resolutions, as well as the very recent G20 High Level Principles on Tackling Corruption in Sport.
And today, I congratulate the Italian Chairmanship of our Committee of Ministers – and Undersecretary of State for Sport Vezzali in particular – for co-organising this Conference with EPAS, our Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport, and for establishing an agenda that addresses the key issues:
The role played by integrity guidelines;
How best to combat the manipulation of sports competitions;
And the means to ensure good governance in sports.
The impressive range of high-level experts participating will no doubt help us move forward - together –
From sports organisations and betting regulators, to NGOS and a full and impressive range of government departments –
And not only from Italy, but from countries throughout Europe and the wider world.
This only confirms the growing international momentum for addressing these issues:
Only last month, at the Fourth International Forum for Sports Integrity, organised by the International Olympic Committee, we reached an agreement on strengthening international co-operation in order to protect the credibility and integrity of sport.
But we are certainly not beginning from scratch.
In the Council of Europe, we have a long record of putting in place measures to ensure integrity in sports.
First, we have EPAS itself.
This unique intergovernmental forum brings together 40 member states –– alongside countries from outside Europe too – and Italy’s accession last year marked an important development.
On top of that, EPAS has a consultative body consisting of 29 sports organisations, as well as representatives from civil society.
And I must say that the recently adopted revised European Sports Charter was a milestone.
Next year we will start implementing it with a focus on good governance and integrity and most importantly - in the context of modern, globalised and commercialised sport – an emphasis on “sports for all” and the promotion of financial solidarity.
We also have the European Convention on Human Rights, which is in turn interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights. Its judgments – including those related to sports – are legally binding, without exception.
And then we have the three specific sports conventions.
Firstly, our Anti-doping Convention which remains central and important to all of us who want to see sports that are true and fair.
Its Statutory Body, T-DO, monitors implementation, provides targeted technical assistance to its 52 states parties, and is now working on a set of general principles on fair procedure applicable to anti-doping proceedings. This will be important.
Secondly, our Convention on Safety, Security and Service at Sports Events. It is the only internationally binding instrument of its kind and takes an integrated approach that promotes co-operation between all public and private stakeholders, including spectators.
And, thirdly, we have the Macolin Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions.
It asks public authorities to co-operate with sports organisations, betting operators and competition organisers to prevent, detect and sanction the manipulation of sports competitions.
Made in Europe, but open to the world, it proposes a common legal framework for efficient international co-operation that can respond to this global threat.
And it is supported by a Network of National Platforms – the Group of Copenhagen – which lays the foundations for progress in individual countries.
But we have a problem. Only seven countries have ratified it. I want to thank Italy for being one of those seven countries. That is leadership.
But although the Macolin Convention is in force and another 32 states have signed it, we need more ratifications in order to maximise its effect.
And I hope that today’s conference will generate further momentum for that.
I also want to highlight the importance of our co-operation with UEFA, FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
And for us, the International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport – IPACS – is vital.
It has proven effective in building consensus and developing guidelines that prevent and address abuse.
And I am glad that both EPAS and GRECO - our Group of States Against Corruption - are contributing to the work of its task forces.
Let me end by also mentioning that the Council of Europe has just started a process of further strengthening our work on sports by adopting a new strategy that sets clear priorities for our activities over the next four years.
Our focus is on human rights and sports – and the promotion of values-driven sport that underpins this;
But we will not succeed if we cannot work together with you – governments, sports organisations, civil society – and all others playing a role.
As I said in the beginning – sport is such a vital part of the lives of so many people.
We cannot afford to let them down.
I wish you all a very successful Conference.
Thank you for your attention.