Commission will do all it can to help tackle match-fixing and corruption in sport, says Vassiliou
The European Commission is determined to do "all it can" to help sports bodies and law enforcement agencies to tackle the scourge of match-fixing and corruption in sport, European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou told the European Parliament in Strasbourg today.
Vassiliou, who is responsible for education, culture, multilingualism, youth and sport, said the Commission is helping to lead a comprehensive response to the challenge in coordination with sports governing bodies, Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, Eurojust, which is responsible for judicial cooperation between national prosecutors, the Council of Europe and UNESCO. The Commission is also financing five major projects to raise awareness about the problem within both the sports movement and the public.
The Commissioner's statement in full:
"Match-fixing and corruption pose the greatest threats to European sport today, and the European Commission is determined to do all it can to help the sports authorities tackle them.
I am certainly aware of the involvement of organised criminal networks in the latest match-fixing scandal affecting professional football in Europe. My services have been in contact with Europol to discuss the case, and I welcome the action taken by Europol so far.
Concerning the negotiation of a Council of Europe Convention against the manipulation of sports competitions, the Commission, in November 2012, adopted a Recommendation to the Council. This Recommendation calls on the Member States to allow the Commission to join them in the negotiations. The Council is likely to adopt its negotiating directives in the near future.
I believe that the Convention, once adopted, will send a strong signal about Europe's determination to safeguard the integrity of sport. The Convention should also be open to the signature of non-European countries, thus addressing the global dimension of the problem.
In order to ensure a comprehensive approach, all competent Commission services are now working closely together to ensure consistency with the EU acquis on criminal law, data protection and the internal market.
As the recent announcement made by Europol shows, the involvement of law enforcement agencies, and notably their cooperation at EU level, is essential to combat the threat of match-fixing.
These latest cases of match-fixing are likely to require close coordination among judicial authorities involved in criminal investigation and prosecution. The competent authorities will be able to rely on Eurojust for the practical coordination of cross-border prosecution, but also on a whole range of instruments adopted in the field of judicial cooperation, including the European Arrest Warrant.
However, policing and prosecution are only one part of the solution. In order to be effective, the fight against match-fixing needs to include preventive measures as well.
I am glad to inform you that, under the 2012 Preparatory Actions for Sport, the Commission selected five projects in the area of match-fixing. These projects will help to educate the relevant actors and raise awareness about the problem within both the sports movement and the general public.
Work on these five projects started at the beginning of 2013, and results are expected by the first half of 2014. The coordinators of the projects are working together to achieve synergies and common strategies. The outcome of the projects will help us to spread good practices and strengthen networks.
I would also like to add that I am working closely with my colleague, Commissioner Barnier, to address the problem of match-fixing from the angle of sports betting. On 23 November 2012, the Commission adopted an 'Action Plan' on online gambling, which included a chapter on the integrity of sport.
One of the actions proposed by the Commission is a Recommendation to be adopted in 2014. The Recommendation will encourage a more efficient exchange of good practices in the prevention and combatting of betting-related match fixing.
The Commission therefore intends to involve all the relevant stakeholders in this process. The results of the 2012 Preparatory Actions will also provide useful input. Other initiatives such as studies, workshops and expert meetings will gather evidence and inform the drafting of the Recommendation.
Finally, on 5 February 2013, the Commission adopted a proposal to review the EU's Anti-Money Laundering Directive. In the light of concerns that the gambling sector is vulnerable to money laundering, the Commission has proposed to broaden the scope of the Directive beyond casinos to cover the whole gambling sector. Given the evolution of money laundering risks, it is important that the EU framework is able to respond in a robust but flexible way."
The Lisbon Treaty established a European Union competence in sport for the first time (Article 165): This states that the EU shall contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues, while taking account of the specific nature of sport, its structures based on voluntary activity and its social and educational function. It calls for the EU to develop a European dimension in sport, by promoting fairness and openness in sporting competitions and cooperation between bodies responsible for sports, and by protecting the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen, especially the youngest sportsmen and sportswomen.
The European Commission has proposed a sport chapter as part of Erasmus for All, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport. The proposed budget for sport is €34 million a year on average between 2014 and 2020. Support will be given to transnational projects aimed at boosting the exchange of know-how and good practices, non-commercial European sport events of major importance and studies and statistical work to strengthen the evidence base for policy-making in sport. The main beneficiaries will be public bodies and civil society organisations active in grass-roots sport.
Match-fixing will be one of the topics addressed at the World Conference of Sports Ministers in Berlin in May.
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