EU leaders flock to Berlin for jobs summit
Some 20 EU leaders Wednesday (3 July) are expected to take part in a youth employment conference hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel, less than a week after an EU summit on the same topic.
Youth unemployment in countries like Spain and Greece is over fifty percent, with EU leaders having pledged to fast-track €6 billion out of the next EU seven-year budget to projects aimed at training or advising youngsters how to get a job.
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"Our conference is not about setting conditions on how to spend this money. It's about exchanging best practices and making it as concrete as possible, for countries to take into account in the coming months when they plan their national priorities with the EU commission on how to spend the funds," a high-level German official told journalists in Berlin on Tuesday.
Changing the education system to a more practical one, including traineeships in companies is one avenue the Germans are particularly keen on. They also stress the importance of career guidance in places like Greece, where youngsters "don't even get proper advice."
Labour ministers and heads of national employment offices are also participating in the event, which will end with a joint press conference between Chancellor Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and the heads of the EU's three main institutions.
"It cannot be that we have a lost generation," Merkel said in an interview with several international newspapers published ahead of the event.
But opposition politicians and trade unions have expressed scepticism about what another summit on youth unemployment can achieve.
The Social Democrats called Merkel's event a "show summit" and accused her of "handing out band-aids for the injuries she has caused", in reference to the German-led austerity drive in the eurozone.
Meanwhile, a protest by young trade unionists from Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece is scheduled in front of the chancellery on Wednesday just as leaders convene for the talks.