Washington [USA], Sept. 1 : In a bid to fight extremist ideology and youth radicalisation, the Italian Government is set to launch a scheme to provide vouchers for recreational activities to 18-year olds.
Through this scheme, the country hopes to fight extremism through positive ideology and its rich culture.
Starting mid-September, more than half a million 18-year-olds living in Italy will be eligible to receive vouchers valued at more than USD 500 each.
The vouchers will allow the recipients free museum visits, go to concerts for reduced prices or watch movies, reports the Washington Post.
"It sends a clear message, a welcome for those who reach the age of 18 and a reminder of how crucial culture is, both for personal enrichment and for strengthening the social fabric of the country," Tommaso Nannicini, the official in charge of the program, was quoted as saying.
When the scheme was announced last year, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi implied that extremists should be countered not only militarily, but also culturally and ideologically.
Italy being a well-known and appreciated cultural hub draws a flood of tourists every year. Giving free money to the 18-year-olds in a country where the youth unemployment rate is more than 35 percent is aimed at motivating younger Italians to have similarly positive experiences and to see their own country in a different way.
The idea of countering extremism through cultural and social incentives is becoming increasingly popular in Europe.
Britain's Channel program, part of a broader "Prevent" counterterrorism strategy, also offers counseling and social support to youths who might be at the risk of radicalisation.
France and Germany also have experimented with smaller, similar schemes. The Italian Government expects to spend about USD 300 million on the program, depending on how many eligible recipients claim the money.
Theoretically, all 18-year-old European Union citizens living in Italy are allowed to apply, regardless of ethnicity or religion.
The opposition parties have, however, criticized the scheme as populist, but counterterrorism experts and international observers say that it could be more effective than some other past efforts to counter youth radicalization.
Although the program clearly intents to counter radicalisation, the government has been careful to label it a "culture bonus.".