Sport

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.

What are the challenges?

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.

  • Getting people active is a challenge right across Europe. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has a massive impact on sports activity – limiting access to sports facilities and changing the way people engage in organised sport. The pandemic has also shown how important sport is for our physical and mental health.
  • In post-conflict societies such as the Western Balkans, sport plays an important role beyond the health benefits. Sport has the power to unite and build bridges between cultures.

Reconciliation and core values promoted by sport, like tolerance and inclusion, are at the heart of EU-Western Balkans cooperation.

How is the EU responding

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

All Western Balkans partners included in the European Week of Sport Beyond Borders since 2018

ERASMUS+ offers opportunities for collaboration between sports organisations in the Western Balkans and the EU

Ongoing support

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:

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