Four years after its inaugural kick-off, the European Week of Sport (EWoS) has spread its wings and crossed the EU borders.
To mark the opening of the Week to the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership region, as well as Serbia’s accession to the Erasmus+ Programme at the beginning of 2019, the European Commission, in cooperation with the EU Delegation to Serbia, organised on 27 September 2018 the first ever EWoS event outside of the EU. The European Olympic movement, represented by the EOC, EOC EU Office and the NOC of Serbia, took an active part in the event bringing expertise as well as high level representation.
The pinnacle of the full-day event was a High-Level Round Table on Healthy Lifestyle Beyond Borders. Divided in two parts, the round-table featured a discussion of an impressive number of high-level speakers, including the European Commissioner for Sport, Tibor Navracsics, Serbian and Romanian Sport Ministers, Ukrainian Deputy Minister for Sport, Member of the European Parliament, Bogdan Wenta, President of the European Olympic Committees, Janez Kocijancic, Secretary General of the NOC of Serbia, Djordje Visacki, or three-time Olympian and Luxembourg record holder in swimming, Laurent Carnol.
Both representatives of the Olympic movement congratulated the European Commission for taking the step to go beyond borders of the EU with the European Week of Sport. Recalling, that the European Olympic Committees represents 50 NOCs, President Kocijancic stressed that ‘’it was high time to treat the continent as a continent in this respect”.
Indeed, as Commissioner Navracsic demonstrated and Zsofia Pusztai, Head of WHO Country Office in Serbia, confirmed, the public enemy number one is obesity and physical inactivity, with 46 % of EU citizens not engaged in any form of physical activity and sport. And this “epidemic” does not stop at the EU’s borders. The Commissioner further noted in this respect that a healthy lifestyle is a societal topic not only from the point of view of keeping the population fit, but also from a cohesion and economic one. “Individually we have to be healthy, but we have to be healthy also collectively, striving to make our communities stronger”, he stressed. It can be added that this is valid for all countries and regions of Europe.
In answering a question on the role of the Olympic movement in the promotion of healthy lifestyle and physical activity, President Kocijancic stressed that there would be no high-level sport without grassroots sport and vice versa as “high-level sport and its results are the best tools to attract people to grassroots sport.” This was echoed by Laurent Carnol who noted that exceptional performances of high-level athletes have an impact on the participation in any given sport.
The promotion of healthy lifestyle, physical activity and sport beyond the EU borders can have, as well, general impact on the relationship between the EU and its Eastern and South-Eastern Neighbours. As stressed by Mykola Movchan, Deputy Minister for Youth and Sport on European Integration of Ukraine, ‘’sport and the EWoS are important tools for the European integration of my country”.
The EOC EU Office aims to build on its recent activities and initiatives in this area and assist the Olympic movement in the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership region to be part of this deeper integration, cooperation and exchange between societies.
Expert Seminar on EU Funding Beyond Borders
The high level panel was preceded by an expert seminar on EU funding for sport beyond borders which included an overview of European sport policy and funding, and a rich exchange of information on the EWoS activities in and outside of the EU. Even without receiving a direct financial support, many of the new EWoS member countries have organised an impressive number of activities, with Ukraine being a prime example where the cooperation between the National Coordinator (Ministry of Youth and Sport) and the organised sport movement, including the NOC of Ukraine, has born many fruits.
Following-up on its EU funding seminar for NOCs from non-EU countries organised in June 2018 (for more information, see the June Monthly Report), the EOC EU Office representatives provided participants with a “crash course” on EU’s external funding programmes and the opportunities for sport therein. While analysing the current possibilities, and stressing the need to consider the sport movement from a continental perspective, the Deputy Director of the Office, Heidi Pekkola, highlighted in her presentation the need to look beyond the current funding programme and build on the current momentum and positive developments. She stressed, in particular, that the new generation of the EU funding programmes should take sport fully into account alongside sectors such as youth and culture which have already been prominently featured in these programmes. The EOC EU Office is currently closely following these discussions in Brussels.