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In some EU-countries like Denmark and Sweden, school based physical education (PE) has already a historical background of about 200 years. With the export of the Swedish Ling school based gymnastics after the mid-19th century and the British model of youth sport activities at Public Schools since the 1880s, PE and unorganized as well as organized sports for adolescents across Europe have become features of development, also in Germany. Import of ideas and export of concepts of PE and youth sports, both have their own European history. Another European dimension also in physical education and youth sports already starts after WWII with the first phase of Europeanization in the late 1950s. Cross-border exchange and common developments started in so called “EUREGIO”- regions.
The first EUREGIO around Europe was founded in 1958 at the German and Dutch border with headquarters at Gronau (district of Borken, Münster County, Germany) and Enschede (province of Twente, Netherlands). That was the beginning of a 50-year ongoing successful story of cross-border exchange of schools, sport clubs, and regional sport federations with physical activities and sports until today. There has been much support for German and Dutch young people when the Maastricht Treaty (1991/2) came into effect and the European Commission of EFRE has supported INTERREG programmes since the last 20 years (currently: INTERREG V – form 2014 to 2020). With support of INTERREG- programmes also scientific cross-border studies in PE and sports started at universities of WWU Münster and University of Duisburg-Essen (cf. Riek & Wielenga 2003, p.25, p.110).
In the early 1990s at the same time when the Maastricht Treaty was signed, the European Commission at Brussels started to play an active role in cross-national development of physical activity (PA) and sports, first from different national levels of EU-member states, later in recent years from grass-root level up to regional and national levels of EU-member states.
Since the “European Year of Education through Sports” (EYES) in 2004 the European Commission has also become a strong advocate for children and youth sport and supporter of related research with special attention to the ongoing development of sedentary lifestyles which are linked with overweight and physical inactivity. Another turning point which gives more support to European based promotion of active lifestyles particularly for children and adolescents started with the “Pierre de Coubertin Plan” of the EU “White Paper on Sport” (2007). The proposed “EU Guidelines of Physical Activity” (2008) and the incorporation of the so called “Sport Paragraph” into the European Constitution of Lisbon (2009) were two other important steps forward to the promotion of education, health, and sports for young people with a cross-border and comparative perspective between EU-member states. Both aspects are also essential parts of our team and our projects at Münster and with other partners in Europe.
The brand new “Erasmus + Programme” of the EU (2014-20) and the new Dutch-German INTERREG V programme (2014-20) of the EUREGIO, give both even a broader frame for the promotion of physical education, physical activity and youth sports in Europe and for our unit of European Studies at the Institute of Sport & Exercise Science at the University of Münster.
Our mission is to protect an active lifestyle of children and adolescents through different interventions, particularly at school, sport clubs and local communities, to build active networks of partnerships and to promote citizenships.
Riek,I. & Wielenga, F. (2003). Niederlande- und Belgienforschung in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Münster: Waxmann.