UEFA first vice-president Karl-Erik Nilsson has been in Brussels this week for talks with representatives of European political authorities and institutions - reinforcing dialogue and relationships as a result.
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The relationship between UEFA and Europe’s political authorities and institutions – a significant element within UEFA’s mission to nurture and protect football – continues to move forward in purposeful fashion.
The importance of the relationship, based on dialogue, mutual cooperation and support, was underlined in a visit made to Brussels this week by UEFA’s first vice-president, Karl-Erik Nilsson.
Agreement of Cooperation follow-up
Mr Nilsson met the Director-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture at the European Commission, Themis Christophidou, for talks which focused in particular on the renewed Agreement of Cooperation signed by UEFA and the European Commission in February.
The new agreement provides for close co-operation between UEFA and the Commission in a variety of areas, including UEFA EURO 2020, which will be staged across 12 cities in Europe in two summers’ time.
Through the agreement, relations between UEFA and the Commission have been strengthened, with the two bodies emphasising their commitment to promoting sport’s social values in particular.
The Commission also endorses UEFA’s policies in other areas, including financial fair play, good governance in sport and safeguarding competitive balance.
Mr Nilsson’s meeting with Mrs Christophidou gave UEFA the opportunity to express its interests in European Union funding programmes such as Erasmus+, the EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe.
“UEFA and the institutions of the European Union share a common desire to promote European values through sport,” said Mr Nilsson. “Football’s power has to be used to address many societal challenges.”
“We look forward to working closely together with the European Commission in the spirit of the Arrangement of Cooperation entered into last month.”
#Cohesion Alliance declaration
UEFA has reinforced its relationship with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) – an advisory body comprising locally and regionally elected representatives from, among others, regions, counties, provinces, municipalities and cities. Mr Nilsson met in Brussels with the CoR president, Karl-Heinz Lambertz.
The CoR plays an important role, in particular at local level, in advocating the future strengthening of the EU’s cohesion policies, which aim to achieve economic, social and territorial cohesion across EU member states.
It supports the further development and strengthened effectiveness of this cohesion in the EU beyond 2020, and has initiated a #Cohesion Alliance which brings together supporters of its campaign, who are being encouraged to sign a declaration underlining their backing.
In particular, cohesion policy funds may be used also for the construction of sports facilities and infrastructures, and to promote social inclusion through sport. UEFA showed its support for #Cohesion Alliance when Mr Nilsson signed the #Cohesion Alliance declaration at his meeting with Mr Lambertz.
“Football can greatly contribute to local and regional development,” the UEFA first vice-president said.
“A strong cohesion policy and a better inclusion of sport and small-scale sports infrastructure in the future of European structural and investment funds can certainly play a crucial role in achieving territorial growth of European regions.”
Mr Lambertz welcomed UEFA’s support. "Friendship, collaboration and teamwork are what football and Europe are all about,” he said. “Through UEFA, EU funds are being invested back into our communities, and by supporting grassroots football, we can promote the shared EU values of tolerance, fair play and social inclusion."
Sport and Citizenship meeting
Mr Nilsson took part in a question-and-answer session – “Sport Corner” – held at the European Parliament, organised by Sport and Citizenship, a European think tank in the field of sport which analyses, and takes part in the construction of sport policy, as well as examining sport’s impact within society.
Along with MEP Bogdan Wenta, the UEFA vice-president took questions from Sport and Citizenship’s president, Laurent Thieule, which focussed on priority areas within UEFA’s mission to promote and develop football throughout Europe.
Topics included the UEFA HatTrick programme, which provides sporting and infrastructure assistance to UEFA’s 55 member associations, and the drive to develop women’s football across Europe, in particular through the UEFA Women’s Football Development Programme and participation initiatives such as Together #WePlayStrong.
Friends of Football gathering
The day finished with Mr Nilsson and UEFA General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis meeting representatives of the European Parliament’s “Friends of Football” group – the latest in a series of UEFA’s regular informal meetings with MEPs interested in football that have been taking place since 2003. Views were exchanged, among others, on UEFA’s priority policies and the future of the European game.
“UEFA is an important partner of the European Parliament,” said Bogdan Wenta, “and it was crucial for me and my fellow members of the European Parliament to discuss the future of European football with high-level UEFA representatives. The Friends of Football resolve to strengthen their cooperation with UEFA for the benefit of European sport, and of Europe at large.”
Commenting on his visit to Brussels, Mr Nilsson said that UEFA was eager to establish even greater contacts and cooperation with representatives of the European Union. “Football means a lot for so many Europeans," he explained. "Our intention is to develop closer ties and strengthen our collaboration with the EU."
“The opening last year of a permanent representative office in Brussels is a further evidence of this commitment”.