Croatian Paralympic Committee President Ratko Kovačić has been elected as the new head of the European Paralympic Committee ©HPO

Croatia's Ratko Kovačić has been elected unopposed as the new head of the European Paralympic Committee (EPC).

Kovačić officially took up the role at the EPC's Elective Assembly in Polish city Katowice.

He replaces Denmark's John Petersson, who is stepping down after eight years. 

Petersson is standing to be President at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). 

"This selection continues the long-time mission for the improvement of our organisation," Kovačić said.

"As a member of a large Paralympic family, I can only say that I am extremely proud and honoured and that at the same time, I feel a responsibility to bring us to a common goal.

"I would like to thank all who have given me support and given strength for successfully continuing to build on the solid foundations laid by my predecessor John Petersson."

The EPC aims to provide programmes and initiatives for sports for persons with a disability.

It holds a Para-disability European Youth Games each second year in an attempt to increase sport participation rates in the less economically affluent zones of Europe.

Another goal is to increase women's participation rates in sport throughout Europe.

"We want every year to increase the rate of participation of people with disabilities in sport, especially in the less developed countries of Europe," Kovačić added.

"Our strategy is based on increasing the rate of women's participation in sport for people with disabilities throughout Europe and we will, in the coming period, certainly focus a lot of attention on the two key points of development."

The European Paralympic Committee Elective Assembly was held in Polish city Katowice ©HPO
The European Paralympic Committee Elective Assembly was held in Polish city Katowice ©HPO

Kovačić represented Croatia in table tennis at the 2000 and 2004 Paralympic Games in Sydney and Athens respectively.

He has served as President of the Croatian Paralympic Committee since 1997 and also as an EPC Board member since 1999.

He has been EPC vice-president since 2013.  

Norway’s Terje Jentoft Roel, a member of the IPC's Paralympic Games Standing Committee, has now replaced him as vice-president.

Also elected in Katowice was the EPC's new Executive Board, including Paralympics Ireland chief executive Miriam Malone.

Malone is Ireland’s first-ever representative at the EPC's top table.

Other new Board members are Poland's Lucasz Szeliga and Sweden's Asa Norlin, while Belgium's Denis Jaeken and Slovakia's Samuel Rosko have been re-elected.

Austria's Rivo Killer is the new treasurer. 

Petersson is one of three candidates to be nominated to replace Sir Philip Craven as IPC President along with Brazil's Andrew Parsons and Canada's Patrick Jarvis.

A 15-time Paralympic medallist and six-time champion, the former swimmer is also an active accountant and former executive director at Ernst & Young in Copenhagen.

He has served on the IPC Finance Committee since 2006 and is also standing for vice-president of the IPC.

A vote for all IPC Governing Board positions is scheduled to take place at the body's General Assembly in Abu Dhabi on September 8.

It will see the election of just the third IPC President in the organisation's 28-year history.

Canadian Robert Steadward was elected as the founding head when the IPC replaced the International Coordination Committee of World Sports Organisations for the Disabled in 1989.

He was replaced 12 years later by Great Britain's former wheelchair basketball player Sir Philip.