Europe and MENA youth

Authored by: Emma Murphy

Routledge Handbook of EU–Middle East Relations

Print publication date:  December  2021
Online publication date:  December  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367330767
eBook ISBN: 9780429317873
Adobe ISBN:


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The role of Europe as a paradigm innovator for youth and youth policy grew out of its own efforts to resolve the political and economic challenges associated with reproducing democratic models of citizenship in the post-full employment era. The relationships developed through the Mediterranean Partnership Programme and ongoing dialogue with the Arab League, offered opportunities to “export” this paradigm through the EU’s external actions, buttressed with European funding and political incentives and serving Europe’s own interests in promoting liberal economic and political developments in its neighbouring region. A range of programmes encouraged capacity-building and exchanges which would supposedly foster a more employable work force with democratic normative preferences. MENA regimes proved receptive to the discourse (and the money), but unwilling or unable to acknowledge youth as a structural component of their development strategies. The Arab Spring provided new opportunities for Europe to engage MENA youth directly as political and civic actors, but did little to promote a sea-change in regime behaviours, making few inroads on the binary narrative of youth-as-asset/youth-as-threat which underpins youth policy – such as it is – within the MENA states. Moreover, it created new conditions in mass unregistered migration and the possibilities for importing radicalisation which raised the profile of MENA youth-as-threat within Europe itself.

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