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The Council of Europe: a vital partner in sports diplomacy

Major international sporting events will be watched by billions of spectators and are an excellent opportunity for the host countries to promote their expertise worldwide as a successful major event organiser and to enhance its international reputation in many different areas.



Snežana Samardžić-Marković


Director General for Democracy,

Council of Europe



The use of sport as a “soft power” to influence the geopolitical arena is gaining importance. EURO 2020 will be a fine example for illustrating European sports diplomacy, as it is co-hosted by 12 European countries, all members of the Council of Europe (CoE). In this context, Europe will have an opportunity to display its collective knowledge and its capacity to co-operate. The CoE and UEFA, through their Memorandum of Understanding, are ready to use this tournament to highlight the common values they share, a joint commitment that will be underlined at the forthcoming Conference of Ministers responsible for Sport (5 November 2020, Greece).

For more than 40 years, the CoE has developed extensive expertise in many aspects of sport, and it plays a central role in fostering international co-operation. Diplomacy is part and parcel of that – it’s what we do.

Let’s take the example of the Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events (Saint-Denis Convention). Its ultimate goal is to ensure that, through police and cross-agency co-operation, all participants in a sporting event, no matter what the location or the capacities of the host country may be, are treated equally and their fundamental rights are respected. The aim is to achieve that by guaranteeing safe, secure and welcoming sports events.

EURO 2020, despite its postponement to 2021, has provided the CoE with a unique opportunity to showcase its know-how, via a specialised working group set up to strengthen co-operation and communication between the host nations.

“A safe, secure and welcoming sports event”

The CoE and the EU have also joined forces through the ProS4+ project, which offers countries tailor-made assistance packages to help put the Saint-Denis Convention’s measures into place. It has for instance developed a survey for the European football police network on major challenges facing international police co-operation which will be tested to the full during the tournament in 2021.

The measure of successful sport diplomacy lies also in enthusing other regions to take inspiration from our good practices. Our “Qatar 2022” project is proving the relevance of our standards for other regions. Built upon the solid basis of our Convention, our legal assistance and the training of professionals responsible for managing the safety and security of the tournament in Qatar will provide the country with stronger legislation and an invaluable legacy, which can then be passed on to other non-European countries in the future.

The Saint-Denis Convention is one of the tools the CoE uses to promote a safe, ethical and inclusive sport to preserve and amplify sports social benefits. I am convinced that Europe’s credibility in sport will continue to prosper if we stand together, sharing and promoting the values we have in common through Sport diplomacy.

Sport et citoyenneté