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I would like this event to be as informal as possible so that we give the opportunity to the children, students and young entrepreneurs from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon who have joined us this afternoon, to feel at ease, to talk, to share their experiences.
The events inside Syria are terrible, as is their impact on neighbouring countries. The EU has been at the forefront of the response, and with our Member States we are the biggest donor.
But despite our efforts, there is always a risk we lose sight of the impact of the war on individuals. Today is about understanding those individual experiences to help us keep improving the support we give.
A whole generation of Syrian, Jordanian and Lebanese youth has seen their dreams put at risk by more than seven years of conflict.
Since 2011, young people in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have had to deal with events in Syria and the massive flows of people that resulted. Schools, universities and the countries' economic sectors have all come under pressure.
Young people everywhere – but perhaps especially right now in the Middle East - need hope. They need opportunities for education, training and employment. They need perspectives to construct a future for themselves, and experiences that build self-confidence.
This is in everyone's interest. There is no greater risk than that we see a 'lost generation' that perpetuates instability because individuals have not had the chance to build a life for themselves.
We need to find ways to encourage lively and talented young people to be active in their communities, and to start the work of mending the damage to the social and economic fabric of the Middle East region.
I'd like to say to the young people who have joined us today: you are the agents of change, the building blocks for the recovery of the region and the hope that we have for a more peaceful future.
I hope this doesn’t sound like older people weighing you down with too many grand expectations on your shoulders.
But I am an optimist, and I believe in the abilities of young people. AND what you say today matters: I plan to take your experiences into the conference events over the next two days! Give me great examples that will make everyone sit up and listen!
- 23 april 2018
- Generaldirektoratet för grannskapspolitik och utvidgningsförhandlingar