Ján Figel’, European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth and IOC President Jacques Rogge in Lausanne Monday. (IOC/R.Julliet

European Olympic Committees President Pat Hickey says a meeting involving Olympic leaders and European Union sports officials Monday has significantly improved relations between the Olympic Movement and the EU.

“We feel there is now a very good open channel of communication,” the IOC member from Ireland tells Around the Rings.

IOC President Jacques Rogge led the meeting with European Union sports commissioner Ján Figel at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. The summit involved 13 Olympic and sports leaders and four EU officials.
 
Hickey said productive discussions were held on sport and autonomy issues, which he believes can help prevent government interference in the affairs of national Olympic committees and sports federations in the 27 EU member states in future.

“There was real consolidation with both sides in agreement,” he said.

The EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which includes reference to the “specificity” of sport, also came under discussion. If the treaty is ratified, a sports commissioner would be retained, a move Hickey described as “a very welcome development.”

The IOC and EOC will work more closely with EU sports officials when their liaison office in Brussels opens next month.

“He [Figel] mentioned he was very happy with the set-up of the new office,” said Hickey, adding that IOC/EOC staff in Brussels would be engaged in regular meetings with EU sports officials.

Representatives of the Olympic Movement and EU sports department will hold their next  summit in Brussels in June.
 
The agenda is likely to cover similar themes to today’s meeting, namely: sport and autonomy; the financing of sport and betting; application of EU competition law and of free movement principles in sport; and the fight against doping.

“Organized sport is one of the biggest social movements in society, and its social, educational and health-promoting role is significant,” Rogge said after Monday’s meeting.

“At the same time sports organizations also need the support of the EU to tackle challenges like doping, irregular betting, racism and violence and to safeguard the

specificity of sports structures and sporting rules,” he said.
 
“It is vital that we work closer together to tap the full potential of sport, and today’s meeting was an important step.”

During the meeting Figel confirmed his respect for the autonomous and self-regulatory character of sports organizations. Rogge and Olympic Family representatives stressed the need to safeguard the existing mechanisms of financial solidarity towards grassroots sport. And Figel expressed his full support for the principle.

Figel told Olympic leaders that his team was currently preparing for the implementation of the

“We feel there is now a very good open channel of communication,” says EOC President Patrick Hickey about the meeting in Lausanne. (ATR)

Lisbon Treaty, indicating that the Olympic Movement’s input was crucial to the process.

“I am pleased that the profile of sport has increased in the minds of government policy makers and stakeholders,” Figel said. He said last November’s Sports Ministerial Meeting and EU Sport Forum “gave sports an additional strong boost, and it is important that we maintain this momentum.”

“There are important issues at stake. That is why we in the commission welcome the new approach of having a regular, structured dialogue with the IOC. Today’s meeting is a tangible outcome of the new approach,” he said.

The meeting was a follow-up on the action points specified in the European Council Declaration on Sport presented in mid-December 2008. In this document the heads of state called on the European Commission to strengthen its dialogue with the IOC as well as underlining the values of sport.

Other IOC members in attendance were Mario Pescante, Denis Oswald, Rene Fasel, Sepp Blatter, Patrick Baumann and Guy Drut. Participants from the Olympic Movement included Henri Sérandour, president of the French national Olympic committee, and officials from FIFA and the International Hockey Federation.

With reporting from Mark Bisson.

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