Many Europeans are concerned about what is happening on the other side of the Mediterranean. Their perceptions are moulded by the civil war in Syria, the nuclear standoff with Iran, violent demonstrations in Egypt, and the fighting with radical terrorist groups in Mali.
A mere two years ago Europe was full of hope as it watched the peaceful demonstrations in which Tunisians and Egyptians, most of whom were young people, challenged and then overthrew their rulers, Ben Ali and Mubarak, with their calls for dignity, freedom, participation and work. However, the Europeans became rather sceptical when the revolt against the Libyan dictator, Gaddafi, compelled the West to provide military assistance, and thousands of people were killed, maimed and wounded in a war that lasted for about seven months. Subsequent elections which brought Islamist parties, rather than secular forces or members of the protest movements to power added to the European unease. And the extent to which Islamists are in favour of democracy and freedom is still a moot Point.