I had the chance to attend the Euro – Arab and Mediterranean Youth Leaders’ Meeting in Rome as a representative of AEGEE. The Italian National Youth Council hosted the event between 8th and 11th May, 2012. About 30 young leaders from Europe and the Arab world came to Rome to participate in the event. We were all there to start working on strengthening youth cooperation between young Europeans and Arabs for the sake of development and stability in our society.
EuroArabs in AEGEE and beyond
For AEGEE, the Euro – Arab youth cooperation is not a new concept. It has been a part of AEGEE since 2010 when the Beyond Europe Flagship Project started. This is when AEGEE-Köln, AEGEE-Aachen and AEGEE-Maastricht hosted the first Euro – Arab Case Study Trip with Egyptian and Palestinian students. In November 2011, Shift Network hosted the Media and Culture Project in Alexandria, Egypt. Egyptian students invited AEGEE members to experience Egyptian culture. This project was continued by AEGEE–Krakow in February 2012 where Egyptians from Alexandria had the chance to have a cultural exchange with European students in Krakow.
As the Euro – Arab cooperation is very close to my heart, I was happy to see that major institutions, such as the Council of Europe, the League of Arab States, the World Bank and the European Youth Forum support this initiative, and want to invest time and effort into strengthening the relationship between us – young Europeans and Arabs.
We participated in a workshop where we were divided into three groups to work out policies on three topics: volunteering, capacity building and youth rights. We presented the final documents at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to representatives of major stakeholders from both regions. Our policy proposals are going to be used for developing the Action Plan of the Euro – Arab and Mediterranean Youth Partnership for 2012 – 2015.
European and Arab youth connecting
It was also an excellent space for intercultural dialogue and intercultural learning.
As a European, I particularly enjoyed spending time with the Arab participants who came to Rome from Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Oman. The European participants were from Finland, Denmark, United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Italy, Slovenia, Greece and Hungary. We did not have a Turkish participant, but we had a wonderful Turkish trainer who represented the bridge between the East and the West. We have all learnt a lot about each other’s culture. I enjoyed spending time with them to the extent that I am already planning visiting the Arab region to learn more about their society and culture.
The EuroArab cooperation prospects
While in Rome, I tried to promote AEGEE’s Euro – Arab project to the other participants. I am looking forward to implementing projects with the young Arabs and AEGEE members. We already have very enthusiastic AEGEE members working on developing an official Euro – Arab project. Stay tuned!
Now let us see what a young Arab, May Eddib from Libya, thinks about the future of the Euro – Arab cooperation:
“The meeting has given me the precious opportunity to remedy the misconceptions and false impressions mainly imposed by the media, and to reflect the new spirit of my country after the drastic change it has been through lately. Furthermore, it opened a wide space in front of a considerable number of young ambitious leaders to link their organizations where the prospect of partnerships is more feasible. Therefore, after the meeting I see myself more capable of improving the interaction and dialogue by working on mutual projects and organizing joint events of common interests.”
She also expressed her view on why she appreciated this meeting so much:
“The variety of the participants’ backgrounds with one huge common dream, a better world! It was a pool of knowledge and experience exchange at different levels, from cultural and social, to political and economical. This is the only way, I believe, to empower the young generations to take part in drawing the change they wish to see in their future, to provide a fertile climate where their voice is heard, and their visions are achievable. Sharing and cooperating are never subject to limitation by borders or any other restrictions imposed by the higher authorities.”
We all, young Europeans and Arabs, want the same. We all want stability and peace in our society. So what are we waiting for? Let us work on it together.
Written by Diana Lesko, AEGEE-Debrecen