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European Union/employment summit

Published on October 14, 2014
Press conference given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)
Milan, October 8, 2014

Thank you, Matteo, for this employment summit. It’s the third one. The first was held on Angela Merkel’s initiative in Berlin, and the second in Paris. We’ve been able to build on the decisions we took for youth employment. But this meeting was also an opportunity to return to the issue of growth in Europe.

As the [European] Commission President said, in the past two years Europe has been able to regain stability. The best evidence is that, on the market, interest rates are at a very low level, nearly the lowest in our history. Furthermore, the gaps have been reduced between interest rates on the different countries’ sovereign debts. We owe this to the action conducted over the past two years at European level, and particularly in the Euro Area.

But we have a growth problem. The recovery has been too weak, although it’s unequal between countries. It’s been too weak to make a significant fall in unemployment possible. In many countries, unemployment, particularly among young people, is still at an unacceptable level.

Two conclusions can be drawn from this. The first is that each country must make efforts to regain levels of competitiveness and create jobs. These are the so-called “structural reforms” – reforms to enable more jobs creation and more opportunities for a high level of growth and competitiveness.

Italy, like other countries, is making this choice. Some made it several years ago. Others, like France, were prompted several months ago to undertake these reforms: lowering labour costs (it’s what we in France call the Responsibility Pact), modernizing the labour market and reforming vocational training and apprenticeships, which must become a real path towards employment and new trades… At the same time, we must ensure we can have innovation that creates growth. Those are the structural policies.

But however determined the European countries embarking on these policies are, they won’t be able to achieve significant results unless there’s also a favourable European environment. This depends on what the new Commission can do – particularly the announcements made by President Juncker about the investment plan.

But before getting to that point, we have to conduct the programmes already initiated, especially for youth employment. €6 billion has been released for 2014-2015. We note that while certain countries – Italy, France and others – have had access to this fund, others haven’t been able to or known how to attract funds for youth employment, at the very time when unemployment is high.

Before talking about new funding – although I’d like there to be more by 2020: I’ve talked about €20 billion – the funds released must be used up. This has prompted us – and I thank the labour ministers who took the initiative – to ask for and obtain a simplification of procedures, a shortening of the time period, in such a way that we can work faster and better for youth employment.

Second decision: to encourage the pre-funding of these programmes, so they can be implemented in each country more easily and more swiftly.

Thirdly: to extend the mechanisms and ensure we can use the European Investment Bank’s loan formulae – it’s true that the bank’s recapitalization was one of the first decisions taken in June 2012 – for youth employment.

Finally, there are three commitments we must make to young people, particularly in the framework of the €300 billion investment programme.
Firstly, to create apprenticeship centres, training centres, second-chance and third-chance centres… for those young people who may be most in difficulty.

Second commitment: to launch a major, Europe-wide digital plan, because this will be a major issue for young people in terms of competitiveness and employment. Through digital technology, we must create a way of requalifying young people, so that they’re better orientated.

Thirdly: to develop a whole spectrum of credits and micro-credits so that young people can start up businesses. That’s why we must regard the youth employment programme as one of the programmes for supporting growth in Europe.

Let me finish by saying that this is Europe’s big challenge. Unless it can offer hope to the coming generation, people will turn away from Europe. We can see the risk and we can see the danger. Europe must once again provide opportunities for young people. (…)./.

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