Since March 2009, you have had a seat in the European Parliament where you are the youngest MEP. You are also President of the Parliament’s Youth Intergroup. Describe this informal structure and the objectives you have set for it.
Damien Abad: As the youngest French MEP, one of my priorities was the creation of this Intergroup on youth issues. We have been lucky enough to be able to create this Intergroup which is supported by my political group (EPP) and which includes MEPs from all Member States and from all political groups (S&D, Greens, ALDE). We are working with support from across the spectrum on major issues such as youth employment in Europe, European culture, mobility and access to services, sports and culture. Young people face several specific difficulties. Also, the Commission has just presented its first broad strategy for young people in Europe charting a course for the next ten years.
Ce think tank créé en 2007, réfléchit sur le rôle et la place du sport dans les sociétés européennes. Il publie une revue sur ces questions tous les trois mois.
No longer can we be content with a policy for young people - we want to develop youth policy with young people. We must use the European Union’s political renewal to bring this issue, which is crucial to our future, to the centre of the European Parliament. This Intergroup was created with three objectives which are, in my opinion, the most important issues for the future of our young people: promote active citizenship among young people; contribute to stronger youth policy by ensuring that initiatives and programmes are followed up on throughout their implementation particularly with regard to mobility and autonomy; bring new youth-oriented initiatives and ambitions to bear at European level such as the creation of an Erasmus for Apprentices.
The European Parliament is very active in the area of sport and, in particular, its impact on society (social inclusion, health, diversity etc.). How do you view this activity that unites million of Europeans? Has sport been integrated into the Youth Intergroup?
Damien Abad: Even though my MEP duties don’t leave me much free time, I still find time for sport! I played table tennis at a high level. I also swim and play football. I’m a huge football supporter.
Getting involved in sports enables young people to understand others and it also promotes essential values such as respect, sharing and humanity. We learn in life through victories and defeats, through surpassing oneself, and through giving the best of oneself whether in a team sport or in an individual sport.
With regard to the Intergroup’s work, we have yet to work on areas such as sport and citizenship because we have prioritised issues more closely linked to employment, integration into the labour market and mobility. That said, as you know, the Lisbon Treaty introduces sport as a new competency of the European Union. It is in this framework therefore that we will tackle the subject during this parliamentary term.
This quarter, we will be devoting a special section to the situation of sport for the disabled and adaptive sports in Europe. You yourself have a rare illness (arthrogryposis). What is your personal relationship with sport? Has sport allowed you to better get to grips with your condition?
Damien Abad: Jacques Delors spoke of, “the crucial contribution of sport regarding education for all, fraternity and thus the will to live together” .
I believe deeply in the values of harmony and sharing that sport promotes. Encouraging a group dynamic is one of the most important values to my mind. On sport for the disabled in particular, I strongly feel that everyone can have access to the sport of their choice. My experience of playing sports has only been positive. The Fédération Française Handisport (French Federation of Sport for the Disabled) has almost 35,000 members and several regional and departmental committees.
My involvement in table tennis and football did not enable me to better get to grips with my condition; rather they helped me to overcome it. We all have our differences in terms of identity but in sport - its competitions, victories and defeats - we are all equal. The important thing is not to strive for a result but to strive to surpass oneself.
In your opinion, what are the main initiatives that need to be implemented in order to promote sport for the disabled at national and European level?
Damien Abad: The FFH (French Federation of Sport for the Disabled) came 4th in the Winter Paralympics in Turin in 2006. We must continue to develop and train our athletes so that they reach the podium! We also need to continue to expand the number of disciplines that are accessible, to develop activities such as the Jeux de l’Avenir (Games competition for disabled young people aged 12-20) or the Grand Prix National des Jeunes (Multidisciplinary games competition for disabled young people focussing on group sport). In this way, the Challenge Handijeunes (Société Générale award for schools or establishments that promote sport for disabled people) is an excellent bridge to getting young people involved in sport who might not otherwise have considered it.
At European level, I believe that it is essential that everyone is aware of sporting structures such as the European Paralympics Committee. For this reason, European sport should be promoted in a broad sense. All European Union residents should have access to it. The specific needs of under-represented groups have to be taken into consideration. Sport has a role to play in supporting gender equality and integrating people with disabilities.
The EU benefits from a strategy for the disabled that aims to promote integration and equal treatment of disabled people. In its action plan for implementing its disability-related strategy, the Commission considers the role of sport in promoting the integration of disabled people.
Special efforts must be agreed upon to ensure that disabled people have access to clubs, infrastructure and sporting activities and to ensure that their specific needs are taken into account, particularly at school.
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Sport and youth issues - Touteleurope.eu