• ENGSO Youth

“I dream that everybody would find the joy of sport,” Interview with Ms Hanna Kosonen

Luca Arfini, a young communications professional from Italy, has conducted the second of its series of interviews with European level -figures involved in sports and in its promotion. Today’s story is of Ms. Hanna Kosonen, Finland's Minister of Science and Culture and former ski-orienteering competitor.

Photo credit: Flickr, FinnishGovernment

1. Finland held the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July 2019 until December 2019. According to you, what progress has been made during these six months in terms of sport and youth policies?

Youth policies

In the youth field, our main objective for the Presidency of the EU was to enhance the quality of youth work in Europe and to promote the education and training of youth workers. In my opinion, we need continuous reflection on the quality of education and training to ensure that youth work can quickly respond to the emerging challenges in society. The Covid-19 crisis has clearly shown the need to this kind of dynamism.

During our Presidency, the EU ministers for youth adopted the Council conclusions on education and training of youth workers. It is the first Council document that focuses on that topic.

The Ministers stressed the need to deliver quality education and training and to create a competence-based framework for both formal and non-formal youth work education and training. The framework should be sensitive to the differences in training needs of employed and voluntary youth workers and meet the needs and expectations in each Member State.

Furthermore, the youth ministers invited the European Commission to study the options, by the end of 2021, for the preparation of a Council Recommendation on education and training of youth workers. In the youth field, we do not have many recommendations so far. I am looking forward to the Commission´s initiative.

Our second objective was to increase the understanding and the use of digital media and technology in youth work. Digitalization plays a crucial role in young people’s independence, social inclusion, employability and daily lives. However, young people have diverse competences enabling them to operate in a digitalized environment. It is important to bridge the digital divide and to empower young people to be active and creative in digital society, and to take responsibility and control of their digital identity.

Finnish youth work has a long experience in using digital technology and social media in youth work practises. Therefore, at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, youth work had the potential to organise its activities online rather quickly in Finland.

The Finnish Presidency Council conclusions on digital youth work are very relevant today. We need to improve the digital competences of young people and youth workers, exchange best practices and our experiences about digital ativities and services developed during the Covid-19 crisis, and to conduct Europe-wide research on the impact of digitalisation on young people.

As regards the multiannual programme period 2021-2027 and the European Solidarity Corps Regulation, we did all we could in order to make as much progress as possible. Our preliminary aim was to conclude a political common understanding with the European Parliament by the end of our Presidency. Unfortunately, this was not possible. The negotiations on the Regulation will continue under the coming Presidencies.

Sport policies

The theme of sustainability was an important part of the Finnish Presidency and it showed in the sport sector as well. We chose to promote topics that can build on either the work of past presidencies and/or on discussions in other European and international cooperation bodies. We also found that our themes were very topical, so I hope they can live on in the EU sport sector in the future as well.

During our Presidency, Finland’s priorities in the field of the sport were safeguarding children in sport and combating corruption in sport. We discussed these priorities both in the Council configuration and in other Presidency-related events over the course of the Presidency. Council conclusions on both themes were eventually adopted. The Member States found it important to ensure that sport provides a positive experience to all children without having to be afraid or fear inappropriate behaviour or misconduct by adults, and corruption in sport should be tackled forcefully.

We also promoted negotiations with the European Parliament on the content of the new Erasmus+ programme. I am glad that the new programme period places the Erasmus programme in a bigger role in promoting European sport.

Coming back to sustainability, it is one of the most important issues of our time not only globally but also at the European and national levels. Therefore, we included the topic to the meeting agenda of the sport directors, and hope those future presidencies will continue the discussion in order to implement the European Green Deal in the sport sector.

2. What is your plan regarding the promotion of sport among younger generations in Finland?

My aim is to get more young people to move, to do sport and physical activity, to offer prerequisites for them to do so, and to make sure that every child has a safe and sound environment to engage in physical activity. Under our Government Programme, we will guarantee every child and young person a genuine opportunity to pursue a leisure activity of their choice as part of the school day.

The Government Programme also aims to encourage a physically more active lifestyle for all population groups, including young people, by introducing a number of measures, such as improving conditions for outdoor activity and daily exercise. This target is even more important now, when we are struggling against the COVD-19 pandemic. It requires developing innovative solutions by all stakeholders, clubs, organizations, schools, municipalities and the government.

We will also step up efforts to promote gender equality and parity in and through sport. We will ensure equal opportunities for young people engaging in performance sports to attend vocational education and training, in addition to general upper secondary schools specializing in sports.

3. As a former ski-orienteering competitor, could you please tell us what sport means for you?

Although I have now left top-level sport, I have not given up sport entirely. It is still a very important part of my personal life. I am pretty much an all-around outdoor athlete, so to say, and adapt exercise to the time and place I have at my disposal. Sport provides an excellent counterbalance to my work.

Being the minister responsible for sport, naturally, it is an important part of my work as well. Because of my background, I am very passionate about developing Finnish sport policy as well as about contributing to international cooperation in the field. I dream that everybody would find the joy of sport.

4. You were elected for the first time in the Finnish Parliament in 2015 and since then you had a successful political career. However, before being a politician, you were professional skier and you took part in different World Cups in Ski Orienteering. Do you believe that your past sports career had an impact on achieving your goals in politics?

Absolutely! Sport taught me to set goals and to be determined and persistent in reaching the targets. That has been very helpful in my political career. Also, the healthy lifestyle I have grown up with gives me both physical and mental strength to withstand the stress my work sometimes causes.

Having experience in competing in the field and working on the sidelines in different positions have not only helped me to get where I am now, but also deepened my understanding of the sector.

5. How do you think sport and physical activity could enhance social inclusion within Finnish society?

As sport is the most popular leisure activity among children and young people and important for many adults too, we cannot underestimate its potential in tackling challenges in society.

Sport could be an important tool for social cohesion and I think its relevance is not fully recognized for example in integration policies. Although we do not have much research data on the real effect of sport in inclusion, we do have evidence and good practices on how sport has helped people to integrate into our society. By participating in sport and physical activity, people’s sense of belonging as well as their language and cultural skills have been enhanced. Sport provides opportunities to meet and communicate with other people, to take different social roles and to learn particular social skills, and extends people’s social networks. At its best, sport can bring people from a variety of backgrounds together.

But we have to remember that all this is possible only if sport itself is inclusive. Here we still have work to do. During this government period, we will continue to promote equality and diversity in Finnish sport.

6. If you could travel back in time to when you were a professional skier, what kind of suggestion would you give to the younger version of yourself?

Stay focused, but take it easy, trust in life! Life will give you exciting opportunities if you just keep being you, being kind and doing your best.


Luca Arfini is a young communications professional who has recently obtained a master’s degree in European Studies. As a young European who strongly believes in the protection of human rights and democracy, he is active in the promotion of EU values. Currently, he is working as a Junior Project Coordinator at the European AIDS Clinical Society.