x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Summer school at European parliament

Six students will jet off to France this summer for courses designed to flex their political muscle.

ABU DHABI // Twenty-year-old Abdulla Al Amiri will head to the European Parliament this summer to gain first-hand experience on policymaking and western ties with the Gulf.

The student is part of a group of six Emiratis who will visit France, Brussels and Strasbourg to gain insight on topics such as foreign affairs, the euro currency, energy, culture and Muslims in Europe.

The scholarships, awarded for a two-week programme in Europe, are part of a collaboration between the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) and the renowned Foundation Nationale des Sciences Politiques et l'Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po Paris).

The first batch of students includes three male and three female students from the UAE University and Sorbonne Abu Dhabi.

"The programme is going to be a great experience for the students," said Sebastien Linden, the director of international affairs at Sciences Po. "It will focus on Europe with a multidisciplinary perspective on economics and political science."

The course will focus on European Union studies and includes visits to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels and the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Mr Linden said the programme also aimed to boost the relationship with the GCC countries. "The students' meetings will focus on links between the EU and the Gulf."

Mr Al Amiri, who is enrolled in a programme on urban planning at Arizona State University, hopes to understand the differences in culture and policies between the two countries. "I want to share our history and heritage while soaking in their way of life," he said.

He also wants to come back prepared to be a part of the political society. "I want to go into the heart of politics and policymaking and when I come back to work here, my knowledge will put me in a better position to propose changes."

Dana Al Hajri, 23, a history student at Sorbonne, said the programme was a natural extension of her course.  "I am learning about it in a classroom, now I want to explore Europe for myself," she said.

Ms Al Hajri said she was selected by her university because of her academic scores and willingness to discover different perspectives.

Lateefa Al Sada, from the international organisations department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the students would be expected to share their acquired knowledge.

"The courses offered by Sciences Po are regularly updated and will be touching on the EU policies and the current happenings in the Middle East," said Ms Al Sada, who will accompany the students. "This will broaden the students' understanding of the issues faced here and how they should be analysing and tackling it."

Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, the director of Adec, said the programme would run for three years during which its success would be assessed.

"We will see what the outcomes are, what networks the students manage to create, before expanding it to more students," he said.