15th meeting of the EPAS Governing Board: exchange of views on Council of Europe priorities in sport

Strasbourg 16 June 2021
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As delivered


Chairman, Dear Alexandre,

Dear colleagues,

It is good to have the opportunity of this exchange today:

A chance to discuss the Council of Europe’s sports priorities and what these aim to deliver;

And to hear your thoughts about the challenges ahead.

I am sure that there is no need to convince this audience about the importance of sports in our societies:

Or the social, health and economic benefits.

Nor do I imagine that the complex and ever-evolving threats will be news to you:

Whether we speak about doping, the manipulation of competitions, violence, corruption, discrimination or the trafficking of human beings, we have all seen the facts;

And we are all aware of the terrible toll these take.
The Council of Europe’s role in addressing these problems is clear.

As an international organisation our job is to ensure that human rights, democracy and the rule of law underpin every aspect of life across our 47 member states.

So, we work to ensure that these values are embedded in sports;

Through the standards and policies that lead to good governance and safe, ethical and inclusive practice.

For this, we have two main tools.

First, EPAS itself.

This unique intergovernmental forum brings together 40 member States, with some from outside Europe.

It is complemented by a consultative body drawn from representatives of the sport movement and civil society.

And it provides a platform for co-operation at the political and technical levels, and on the development of policies and standards.

This is without precedent anywhere in the world.

One tool is EPAS.

Second, we have the specific, sports-related conventions that we have developed over the course of the past four decades, and other relevant treaties too.

These in turn are underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The European Court of Human Rights interprets this and delivers legally binding judgments in sport-related cases.

And added to this are co-operation with other Council of Europe sectors and institutions, the work of the Parliamentary Assembly, and a number of Joint Programmes and assistance projects.

So, all parts of this Organisation are pulling in the same direction.

And each will be needed as we move forward.

Not least given the clear strategic priorities outlined in the Secretary General’s Strategic Framework for the Council of Europe and endorsed at May’s Hamburg Ministerial Session, where also sport is mentioned.

Looking ahead, over the course of the next four years, our focus will be on:

Striving for major advances in the promotion of values-driven sport;

Placing the protection of human rights and the fight against corruption on the agenda both of governments and the sport movement;

And reaffirming our Organisation’s role as a reliable key partner in addressing European and global challenges, working with the IOC, FIFA, UEFA, WADA, Interpol, UNESCO and others.

So, what should EPAS and the Council of Europe look to deliver?

As I said in my remarks to this meeting yesterday, we should aim to complete the adoption of a revised European Sports Charter later this year.

Since 1992, the Charter has laid out the basic principles for national sports policies.

This has guided governments in their legislation and practice, so that citizens are provided with the opportunity to practice sport under good and well-defined conditions.

But the last revision to the Charter was twenty years ago.

And we will live in fast-paced times.

Technology, commerce and demographics are among the many factors undergoing rapid change.

So, we need a European Sports Charter that keeps up.

The 16th Ministerial Conference on sports endorsed the progress that has been made.

But we need to finish the job.

On anti-doping, there are also steps that should be taken.

The use of performance-enhancing drugs is still a high-profile problem.

And our Anti-Doping Convention remains a central part of our response.

Its statutory body, T-DO, will continue to interpret the Convention, monitor its implementation and provide targeted technical assistance among its 
52 states parties:

Applying established principles and standards to new cases, trends and developments.

Our ad hoc intergovernmental committee, CAHAMA, will also have plenty to do.

Its job is to co-ordinate and advocate the position of European governments on issues addressed by the World Anti-doping Agency.

In recent years, there been many.

And, together, CAHAMA and WADA have taken steps forward on technical and political issues.

But there are more to come.

Among them, the representation of athletes’ interests;

And the revision of the World Anti-doping Code, along with updating current international standards and the development of new ones.

When it comes to the human rights of the athletes themselves, there are issues to resolve.
These rights are not always safeguarded in the structure of sports federations and in disciplinary and appeals bodies.

But they should be.

Here, we can do more to promote the separation of powers within those bodies.

That way, they will be independent and free from conflicts of interest.

But the autonomy and self-governance of sports organisations will remain.

For some time, T-DO has been working on a set of general principles of fair procedure applicable to anti-doping proceedings in sport.

This is about ensuring rule of law principles.

Athletes must have access to justice and a fair trial.

This should be built into national legislation, and international law.

And it is our intention to help ensure that this is the case.

Meanwhile, more States must ratify the Macolin Convention in order to better prevent, detect and sanction the manipulation of sports competitions, both in Europe and beyond. 

The Network of National Platforms will be strengthened and integrated in the work of the Convention’s monitoring Committee.

And the dynamic Macolin Community will further advance the Convention’s outreach thanks to support from the sport movement, public authorities and the betting industry.

In addition, our Saint Denis Committee will continue to provide monitoring, support and advice on safety, security and service at sports events. 

Here, discrimination and hate speech will be addressed, as well as the use of AI to enhance security.

And we will build on recent good work with key international sports organisations.

With the International Olympic Committee where co-operation on human rights issues has stepped up;

With UEFA, where there is a focus on good governance, clean sport, the prevention of match-fixing, and the development of grass roots sport - particularly important as our societies emerge from COVID-19;

And with FIFA, where there will also be work around safeguarding children in football and the ongoing reform of the transfer system, so that there is transparency, accountability and a fairer distribution of financial resources.

More broadly, our recent Memorandums of Understanding with both UEFA and FIFA have provided a solid basis for promoting the Council of Europe’s conventions and other co-operation. 

This is raising organisational standards in the major football championships.

Chairman, these are only some of the areas in which we will strive to take forward steps in the coming months and years.

But they give a flavour of the challenge and the ambition.
EPAS will of course be central to the progress we make, including through its work on monitoring and supporting the implementation of the revised European Sport Charter.

And the Council of Europe relies on your commitment and expertise.

Dear friends,

Sports occupy the thoughts and touch the hearts of many millions of Europeans.

It is our duty to ensure that they also reflect European values.

Thank you – and I look forward to your thoughts and reflections.