The Nexus Between Sport Diplomacy and the European Union
While the Union of European Football Associations makes last-minute arrangements for a safe organization of the postponed men’s European Football Championship, and as Paris prepares to host the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024, it seems essential for stakeholders engaged in sport diplomacy and the European Union to take advantage of such a symbolic sport calendar to concretely think of an EU-level sport policy.
Indeed, sport diplomacy, if implemented at the EU-level, could serve two distinct goals: on the one hand, it could further EU integration and improve inter-relations between EU countries while, at the international level, foster socio-political and economic relationships with non-EU actors. As Euroscepticism now regularly feeds discourses of numerous political parties throughout the EU, a region risking to be particularly fragilized by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, innovative policies such as an EU sport diplomacy could help rebuild the post-pandemic EU.
It is within this context that Towards a European Union Sport Diplomacy (TES-D), a new initiative co-funded by the Erasmus+ Sport Programme, was launched in January 2021 by the French Institute of Strategic and International Affairs (IRIS), a Paris-based think tank, alongside a rich consortium of seven universities and organisations from six European countries and the United Kingdom
The main objective of TES-D is to enhance dialogues among various European Union (EU) stakeholders on the place that sport could occupy in European policy. More specifically, it aims to propose concrete policy recommendations on how to implement a common sport diplomacy to the whole EU region by the official end of the project in December 2022.
Along the way and throughout the next two years, TES-D will regularly share its research findings on a dedicated webpage and grow a network of relevant stakeholders interested in the intersection between sport and diplomacy in the EU via its LinkedIn page. Indeed, the diverse consortium of TES-D is determined to make this project pro-active, with a focus on building a network, a series of online tools and 5 pilot actions.
The desk research, another important pillar of TES-D which reflects its academic approach, was imagined around the hypothesis that the sum of all existing good practices of EU countries regarding sport diplomacy could be added to promote one single EU sport diplomacy. Hence, the project will draft 27 reports of all 27 sport diplomacies of EU countries, in addition to other non-EU case studies and a literature review on the concept of sport diplomacy itself. The findings, paired with interactions stemming from the TES-D network and other activities, will lead to the publication of policy recommendations on an EU sport diplomacy by December 2022.
The finalization of the project’s goals, which shall be perceived as a mere beginning of EU-level conversation surrounding sport policy and cultural diplomacy, will be presented during a conference held in Paris in December 2022. In September 2022, another event centered around initial recommendations will be held in Belgium. If the COVID-19 pandemic alleviates, TES-D will also participate in the MOVE Congress in Brussels in November 2021.
Estelle E. Brun
Research Associate at IRIS - Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques, Paris