Outstanding launch of Sport Diplomacy Academy in Sofia

In the period October 11-17, 2019 in Sofia was held the first module under the Sport Diplomacy Academy project, which brings together 80 sports administrators, coaches and volunteers from 4 countries. Within the framework of a pilot program for mobility in the field of sport, 7 initiatives have been funded in 2018, with the diplomacy academy being the contribution of our country to the purposeful development of human capacity in sport, which the European Commission is starting to support. The total budget of this call for proposals was € 1.2 million. The call was intended to contribute to the development of sports organizations by supporting the learning mobility of their staff. The exchange of people, ideas and good practices can benefit people, their organizations and sport and society as a whole and will be one of the main priorities of Erasmus + in its Sport chapter after 2020, when it expects a doubling of the budget. Full information on the selection is available on the European Commission's website: https://ec.europa.eu/sport/news/2018/results-published-call-proposals-exchanges-and-mobility-sport_en.

The first module of the Sport Diplomacy Academy has been focused on building knowledge and skills for the participants in the field of:
• The structure and values of the European Union and the European perspective of Western Balkans (Monika Panayotova, Former Deputy Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU 2018, МEP (2012-2014));
• National policies in sport (Viktoria Slavkova, Director of European Programmes, Projects and International Cooperation, Ministry of Youth and Sports);
• International sports structures (Dobromir Karamarinov, President of Bulgarian Athletic Federation and Balkan athletics Federation, First Vice President of European Athletics and World Athletics council member);
• Power of diplomacy (Yasen Georgiev, Executive Director Economic policy institute);
• Sport policy in our municipality (Lubomir Drekov, Mayor of Lozenetz district, Sofia Municipality);
• Horizontal character of sport (Prof. Dr. Plamen Dimitrov, MD Deputy Director of the National Center of Public Health and Analyses);
• Political dialogue in sport (Christo Velkov, Policy director Special Olympics Europe - Eurasia);
• Economic dimension of sport (H.E. Konstantin Saute, Deputy Chief of Mission, Counsellor - Embassy of Austria in Bulgaria);
• Complex security environment (Yordan Bozhilov, President Sofia security forum);
• Erasmus+ Programme (Petyo Kanev – Executive director of Bulgarian Erasmus+ National Agency).
During the module in Sofia, participants had the opportunity to work in mixed groups and express their views on the functioning of the sports ecosystem, the opportunities for the development of sports and diplomacy in the daily activities of sport structures.

The Sport Diplomacy Academy project is a legacy of the first Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council, which took place in the first half of 2018. The project focus on cooperation with the Western Balkans as a logical continuation of all activities carried out under the #EU2018BG Priority: Perspective of the EU and the Western Balkans connectivity, citing the Sofia Declaration and the Sofia and EU Priority Agenda for the EU and the Western Balkans. The European Union and the Western Balkans must continue to invest in efforts to strengthen cooperation and the exchange of good practices focused on democracy, security and fundamental human rights.

Project ensures the educational mobility of coaches and other staff of sport organisations (incl. volunteers) linked to professional and grassroots sport. The four mobility modules, which will be implemented in each partner country, will improve the skills and competencies of a total of 80 sports professionals, as well as their qualifications, through learning mobility. Learning mobility is planned as an investment in human capital and a contribution to the capacity building of various sport organisations with clear focus on building a network of well-trained sport diplomats.

After the implemented project mobilities, each of the partner countries will possess with at least 20 well trained “diplomats in sport suits” with great skills and knowledge in the field of sport diplomacy (policy dialogue and international relationship, campaign creation, successful communication (verbal & non-verbal), public speaking, media relationships, protocol and etiquette, EU foreign policy and values). The network that project will create (4 countries-20 people each) will focus on supporting and developing EU integration of the Western Balkans in the field of sport and will be quality provider of EU values in their local environment. For the delivery of the modules will be recruited the best EU experts in each field and non-formal educational methods are going to be used.

Project involves 4 partner countries - Bulgarian sports development association - academy coordinator and initiator, Rijeka sport association, Croatia, the Italian sport organization “L’ORMA” and BRAVO - Bosnian Youth and sport NGO). Partners have been working together for several years already, implementing different scale of projects and cooperating in different frameworks in the fields of sport, education and youth policy.

Project will include also the following concrete results:
• 80 “diplomats in sport suits” /20 per country/, focused on delivering EU integration in the countries of Western Balkan area through sport;
• National, regional and local dissemination events (involving at least 400 people) - multiplying effect from the acquired skills and knowledge;
• Platform for WB sport development - practical tool for resources and EU sport values with accent on Sport diplomacy and the good governance in sport.

Learning mobility will be planned as an investment in human capital and a contribution to the capacity building of various sport organizations with clear focus on building a network of well-trained sport diplomats.

• Module 1 (Bulgaria): Sport diplomacy, EU foreign policy, EU values, Policy dialogue and international relationships;
• Module 2 (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Summary and feedback of Module 1, local practice reports, Good governance in sport;
• Module 3 (Croatia): Summary and feedback of Module 2, local practice reports, Campaign creation, Successful communication (verbal & non-verbal), Public speaking, Protocol and etiquette;
• Module 4 (Italy): Summary and feedback of Module 3, local practice reports, Working with media, Working with specific target groups, Sport diplomacy for development, How to put on practice the knowledge we got.

#SportDiplomacyAcademy project is co-funded by the European Union.