EU to 'revive hope' on youth jobs, Barroso pledges
By Benjamin Fox
European Commission boss Jose Manuel Barroso called on EU leaders to come up with a package against youth unemployment at the June summit, promising that the EU executive would do its bit to "revive hope, especially for young people."
Speaking on Thursday (2 May) following a meeting with businesses and unions, Barroso said the EU executive would "earmark EU funding to strengthen the social dimension" as part of a 'roadmap' on the future of Economic and Monetary Union to be presented to leaders prior to the summit.
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The announcement came after the EU statistics agency, Eurostat, on Tuesday revealed unemployment in the eurozone increased to 12.1 percent in March 2013.
Joblessness among under-25s rose to 24 percent across the 17 euro nations. Meanwhile, more than one in two youths in Greece and Spain, and one in three Italian and Portuguese are without a job.
EU leaders agreed to launch a Youth Guarantee Scheme to offer under-25s a job, training or education within four months of being out of work, as part of a so-called Growth and Jobs pact in June 2012. However, a year on and the scheme is still not off the ground.
MEPs on the European Parliament's employment committee voted last week to extend the €6 billion fund's remit to cover young people under 30 and regions with over 20 percent youth unemployment rate.
But there are concerns that the fund's size and remit will be woefully inadequate.
Following the talks, Bernadette Segol, secretary general of the European Trade Union Congress (ETUC), said the European "project" was "being undermined" by "failed austerity policies."
"Unless we put the social question in mainstream thinking then European working people will no longer support the European project," Segol warned.
For his part, Markus Beyrer, director-general of business lobby group BusinessEurope, expressed hope that employers and unions would be able to agree a joint proposal to tackle youth unemployment.
However, he also spoke out in favour of budget consolidation.
"I don't think we have an alternative to what we are doing", he said, instead laying the blame on "those who were reluctant on fiscal discipline ... and certain member states who thought they were above the rules," he said.
"We shouldn't suggest there are simple solutions, there is no quick fix," he added.
Speaking earlier, Italy's newly appointed Prime Minister Enrico Letta concluded his first tour of Brussels, Paris and Berlin by urging EU leaders to prioritise measures to tackle youth unemployment, describing it as "the real nightmare of my country and the EU."
“It is important for us to have in June some important signals for European citizens in terms of recovering hope and confidence,” Letta said.