Cyprus Mail
Europe

EU leaders promise jobs for ‘lost generation’ of youth

By Leigh Thomas and Elizabeth Pineau
European leaders pledged on Tuesday to make fighting youth unemployment in the bloc a priority but came up with no new ideas to tackle a problem that risks fuelling social unrest and distrust of mainstream parties.
Nearly six million people under the age of 25 are without work in the European Union, with jobless rates among the young at close to 60 per cent in Spain and Greece.
A July jobs summit in Berlin set out plans to devote at least €6 billion over the next two years to addressing the problem – a big headline figure that looks less impressive when spread among the many unemployment blackspots in the region.
Hosting a follow-up summit in Paris, French President Francois Hollande said any country that submitted a national plan to fight youth unemployment by year-end would immediately receive EU funds to implement their programme.
“It’s crucial to act quickly,” Hollande said. “We can’t abandon a generation… we need jobs and training that offer young people real prospects.”
But with the leader of the euro zone’s number two economy more unpopular than ever and bigger neighbour Germany still in political limbo following its election, conditions for advancing a potentially divisive debate could hardly be less favourable.
Though youth funds are to be rushed out, European leaders did not pledge additional money nor propose any new Europe-wide policy initiative to kick-start hiring of what EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said was a “lost generation”.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy urged member states to pursue labour market reforms to spur hiring and said that he expected joblessness to diminish in the coming year.
“The economic recovery is taking shape. … We can hope that in 14 months’ time from now all the countries in the euro zone will have seen a positive trend on jobs,” he said.
The leaders warned against blaming the European Union for joblessness because fuelling anger against Brussels would help far-right parties gaining ground in several member states.
“We must show that Europe is part of the solution, not the problem,” Barroso said. “It’s not Europe that created the problem – it is divergence in policies that created the problem.”
Failure by governments around the bloc to make a dent on unemployment queues are seen by some analysts as driving voters into the arms of anti-EU parties such as France’s National Front in May 2014’s European Parliament elections.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said growth was needed to create new jobs, but sidestepped questions about low wages in Germany penalising the job markets of neighbouring states.
Her country has come under pressure from European partners and the United States to do more to spur domestic demand, with many countries arguing that its reliance on exports is hurting Europe’s economic stability and the global economy.



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