Being active isn’t just good for physical health. It has the power to do so much more – improve emotional wellbeing, reduce stress, and boost self esteem.
Sport also teaches young people important life skills. It has the power to unite and bring people from different backgrounds together.
In this context, the EU supports a range of initiatives that deepen cooperation across the region – and between the Western Balkans and the EU – through sport, as well get more young people involved in sporting activities.
According to the World Health Organization, more than a quarter of people worldwide are not doing enough physical exercise. Inactivity raises the risk of a raft of health problems, such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes and some cancers.
Reconciliation and core values promoted by sport, like tolerance and inclusion, are at the heart of EU-Western Balkans cooperation.
The EU supports sport through dialogue, funding and progressive policies designed to improve access to sports activities and harness the sports economy. The EU has extended many initiatives and programmes in the field of sports to the Western Balkans.
For instance, the ‘European Week of Sport’, launched in 2015 and today the largest European campaign for promoting more active and healthier lifestyles, opened fully to the region in 2018 as the ‘European Week of Sport Beyond Borders’. Since 2020, this has been backed by funding from ‘EU4Youth: The European Week of Sport Beyond Borders in the Western Balkans’ with the goal of broadening the existing cooperation. Under the overarching campaign theme of #BeActive, all these initiatives have already helped many more young people to get involved in sport.
Beyond the physical benefits, this has helped bring people from different communities together, and forge stronger links between the different organisations and countries involved. Sports organisations in the Western Balkans have also been able to take part in exchanges to help them get ready for opportunities to come with the international opening of the new Erasmus+ programme in the field of sport
The Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, along with the upcoming Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, sets the blueprint for moving forward. This underpins the EU’s continued recognition of the importance of sports for inclusion, cooperation, and as an economic driver.
Reinforced support to the new Erasmus+ programme with a dedicated sports strand, and the strengthening of existing initiatives will bring opportunities for the Western Balkans around:
Active involvement – Continued and strengthened involvement of the Western Balkan partners in campaign such as the #BeActive European Week of Sport campaigns will not only get more people active but also bring people together from different communities. Over 15.6 million people took part over 32,000 events across Europe in 2020!
Partnerships and exchange – Through increasing opportunities for Western Balkan partners to get involved in international cooperation projects, including in sport. Notably, the new Erasmus+ Programme is set to enable partnerships between sports organisations, and support for sport activities and policies in the region.
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