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Euro-Mediterranean Youth Dialogue and Mobility after the Arab Spring

Facts about Euro-Med youth dialogue and mobility:

• Young people were instrumental during the Arab Spring in securing more open and tolerant societies with more meritocracy and inclusiveness.

• Youth dialogue and mobility will play key roles in boosting people-to-people contacts and fostering a common sense of belonging, both between countries of the region and with Europe.

• The EU responded to Arab Spring by ‘pressing the reset button’ in its relations with the region: specifically, it has launched two communications and a funding plan based on the three Ms: money, mobility and markets.

• But not enough has been done to encourage legal migration to Europe and the implementation of the EU’s Blue Card scheme has been fraught by difficulties. • Separating the legislative, judicial and military arms of governance in the MENA countries will take time.

• There isn’t enough movement of young people between the countries of the region themselves.

Implications for young people in MENA and EU countries:

• The Arab revolutions have produced mixed outcomes so far. But the process is irreversible – this historic opportunity to create an area of prosperity and peace must not be missed.

• The Arab Spring was a game-changer for the EU’s relations with the south. Now it’s time for action, not navel-gazing or empty rhetoric.

• MENA societies are becoming more open and inclusive, paving the way for new civil society organisations and NGOs to emerge. The EU is trying to reach out to these actors – moving from a prescriptive to an inclusive approach to policymaking.

• Too many people in the region remain disenfranchised, for example religious minorities.

• The Anna Lindh Foundation, which supports exchanges between journalists and other young people from Europe and the Arab World, has been strengthened. The EuroMed Youth budget has increased. Suggestions for action and possible ways forward:

• Transitional governments must stick to the reform agenda and build institutions.

• Instruments for regional cooperation between MENA countries must be established.

• Encourage free movement of people and free trade between the countries of the MENA region, as well as between the region and the EU.

• Young, enthusiastic populations in these countries must be patient, despite the sacrifices they’ve made. The change they want won’t happen overnight.

• The EU could fund NGOs and other civil society organisations in the region to fill a representation vacuum.

• The populations of the countries themselves must take ownership of their future. The EU can no longer be seen to impose its world view on its neighbours.

• Scrap requirements for NGOs in many Arab countries to receive government licences before they can operate legally.

• The European External Action Service should seek to identify new NGOs operating on the ground in these countries, to mitigate the risk of maintaining contact only with arms of the previous regimes.

• ‘Buddy schemes’ for migrants or company employees arriving in Europe can help foster mutual respect and understanding between cultures.

• The EU should fully implement and make better use of its Blue Card scheme for migrants.

• Make it easier for English-speaking migrants to find work in EU labour markets – otherwise Europe risks losing out to the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

• The EU should make funding for Arab countries conditional on taking steps to support women and young people.

• The EU should offer young people – and particularly civil-society actors – in Europe and the MENA region more opportunities to network with one another.

• The EU must do more to hold MENA governments to account for how they use European funding.

Questions to ponder:

• Will the EU keep up the momentum of boosting relations with its southern neighbours at a time of austerity? Governments and populations tend to become more inward-looking during recessions.

• People throughout the MENA region have made huge sacrifices. Managing their expectations will prove a challenge for their transitional governments and the EU alike.

• How can we boost the role of opposition and minority political parties, NGOs and other civil society organisations across the Arab world? Totalitarian regimes did not let them grow, so we’re almost starting from scratch.

• What parallels can be drawn between the Arab Awakening and youth protest movements in Europe, like the Indignados and Occupy?

• How far can social media help to transform politics? Its role in the Arab Spring is yet to be fully analysed – did it just help protesters to mobilise, or was it a platform for genuine political debate?


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