The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and UEFA have joined forces to improve accessibility to EU funding for sports. The two bodies highlighted the importance that EU regional investment – EU cohesion policy – plays in supporting regions deliver sports locally, and its subsequent role in promoting territorial cohesion across Europe. This message was set out in a joint declaration signed by the CoR's President Karl-Heinz Lambertz and UEFA First Vice-President Karl-Erik Nilsson during a high-level conference held in Brussels today.
The event gathered participants from the EU institutions – including EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics – and representatives from UEFA's 55 national football associations. The event highlighted the importance of EU funding for sport within the context of the #CohesionAlliance, an EU-wide coalition of those who believe that EU cohesion policy must continue to be a pillar of the EU's future.
Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "We share the same goal as UEFA: strengthening cohesion and solidarity in Europe. Investing in sports is a return on investment contributing to health, social inclusion, tourism and economic development. This is why it is critical the EU continues to provide sufficient cohesion policy funds to allow regions and cities to provide decent sports infrastructure across borders. As #CohesionAlliance supporters, we know first-hand that EU structural funds can make a real difference, offering a healthier, better quality of life for our communities."
Karl-Erik Nilsson, First Vice-President of the UEFA, who signed the #CohesionAlliance on 20 March earlier this year, underlined: "UEFA believes in the importance of sport, and each year makes an incredible contribution through its HatTrick assistance programme. Thanks to this programme significant infrastructure and sporting activities are supported across Europe. But UEFA's efforts need to be supported by dedicated EU funding, especially for the grassroots level. Investing in sport means investing in the future of Europe. Sports organisations, national authorities and the EU institutions must work together to make the most of all existing funding opportunities."
Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: "Sport has a unique potential to help us tackle the big challenges facing our societies and to boost the development of cities and regions. To make the most of this potential, we have to find ways of embedding sport in our actions across policy areas. In particular, we need to incorporate it more effectively into local and regional strategies, building on regions' and cities' individual strengths and ambitions."
In a joint declaration signed by President Lambertz and First Vice-President Nilsson, the CoR and UEFA highlight that:
- Sport makes an important contribution to the achievement of the strategic objectives of the EU's cohesion policy and the Sustainable Development Goals.
- The European Commission's proposal to double Erasmus funding in the next long term EU budget (which will cover the period 2021–27) and the attention paid to grassroots sport, good-governance and integrity in sport is a welcome step forward.
- At present, a lack of sport-based policies and a lack of infrastructure for grassroots sport are two of the main obstacles standing in the way of free and equal access to sports activities for all citizens, including people with disabilities. Ensuring universal access to sports activities is key to enable economic and social development and increase the overall number of people involved in sporting activites.
- The contribution of sport to strengthening economic development and fostering social inclusion should be better recognised. The regulations governing the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and other appropriate European policies should support sport-based policies including investment in physical sports infrastructures in order to enhance solidarity and prosperity through sport.
- The CoR and UEFA agree to work together within the #CohesionAlliance for a strong cohesion policy that promotes economic, social and territorial cohesion across the EU post-2020.
The CoR has recently expressed many of these recommendations to the European Commission through an opinion on Mainstreaming sport to the EU agenda post-2020 (rapporteur Roberto Pella (IT/EPP), Mayor of Valdengo).
The #CohesionAlliance is a coalition of those who believe that EU cohesion policy must continue to be a pillar of the EU's future. As a consequence of Brexit and the need for the EU to fund new priorities such as defence, security and external border control, the financial allocations for cohesion policy risks being cut in the next EU long term budget – or Multiannual Financial Framework – which sets the EU's expenditure ceilings for the period after 2020.
To avoid this and raise awareness on the vital role of cohesion policy, the #CohesionAlliance was initially launched by the leading associations of regions and cities - the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), the Assembly of European Regions (AER), the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE), the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR) and EUROCITIES - and the European Committee of the Regions in October 2017.
The Alliance demands that the EU budget after 2020 makes cohesion policy stronger, more effective, visible and available for every region in the European Union. Since its launch, the Alliance's declaration has been signed by more than 8300 individual signatories, 116 regions, 109 cities and counties, 50 associations of regional and local governments, 40 Members of the European Parliament, 35 EU sectorial associations.
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