Let’s launch a European “New Deal” to promote youth employment
Today, nearly six million young people on our continent are unemployed. In the countries most affected by the crisis, unemployment has reached an intolerable level. Europe cannot allow itself to sacrifice a whole generation in this way.
The shared effort made in response to the crisis of confidence that hit the Euro Area three years ago is currently bearing fruit. It is too early to proclaim victory, but the facts unequivocally prove the validity of a European response based on rebuilding the public finances and modernizing our economies, as shown by the growing confidence of the markets.
The purpose of the budget consolidation made inevitable by the explosion of public debt in the wake of the financial crisis is not only to make our social systems more secure but also to guarantee our sovereignty and our states’ ability to carry out their functions to the full. Relinquishing this effort would be tantamount to mortgaging the destiny of the generations to come.
Likewise, in response to the erosion of their competitiveness – cruelly exposed by the crisis – Europeans have embarked on an energetic and courageous policy of structural reform which alone is capable of tackling the challenge posed by a global competition as fierce as it is irreversible. Their approach, which attacks not the symptoms but the roots of the crisis – its structural causes – lays the foundations for a return to sustainable growth. As in the past, Europe will emerge from this crisis more united and stronger than ever.
If the Euro Area’s economic recovery is an undeniable fact, it is certain that it has been accompanied by painful sacrifices for many of our citizens. For us, the German and French labour and finance ministers, efforts at reform and consolidation must be redoubled, with a new ambition for employment and growth that will anticipate and support the underlying changes brought about by our structural measures.
Young people must be the first beneficiaries of this. The high unemployment they are undergoing is a social, economic and political threat. It is an affront to the values of solidarity that make Europe strong. It exerts heightened pressure on our public finances and erodes our human capital and industrial fabric. The political risk is no less worrying: abandoned, an entire generation is at risk of turning its back on Europe and giving in to the lure of populism and extremism. The economic marginalization of whole swathes of our societies may rot the very foundations of our democracies.
The European solidarity mechanisms we have created for ourselves over the past three years, the increased coordination of our economic policies and reforms, and the ambitious project of banking union prove that we are stronger when we are united. We must harness this unity to provide powerful, immediate, lasting remedies to the acute problem of youth unemployment in Europe.
At our meeting in Paris on 28 May we, the French and German ministers, are going to sketch out a wide-ranging, immediate European response based on the following key priorities: financing, training, young people’s integration into the workplace, and mobility.
Too many job creators, particularly in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, currently find themselves deprived of financing or incapable of borrowing at the rates demanded by their banks. Many tools already exist to help them: the European Investment Bank (EIB) has made available €60 billion of additional loans at attractive rates between now and 2015, some of which are destined for SMEs. Moreover, €6 billion has been allocated to the Youth Employment Initiative adopted by the European Council in February, and the European Structural Funds will have to encourage job creation in the countries hardest hit by unemployment. Others have yet to be created, such as a special credit line which the EIB could set up to stimulate job creation in small businesses. They must be implemented swiftly and effectively, in a targeted, coordinated fashion and without any bureaucratic barriers.
We must also provide broader access for young people to work-based learning and encourage their mobility around Europe: it is no accident that those countries with the lowest youth unemployment rates are also those where apprenticeships – which enable people to acquire skills that meet companies’ real needs – are the most widespread and highly valued. So we must encourage work-linked training and provide incentives to those companies that commit themselves to developing it. The work-linked training Erasmus (“Erasmus for All”) must be swiftly established in order to encourage apprentice mobility.
Finally, young people’s integration into the world of work may take different routes, in different kinds of companies and jobs. Mobility within the European Union is also an opportunity to be seized. The structures exist: the Erasmus exchange programme and the EURES network, which puts employers and jobseekers throughout Europe in touch. Let’s develop them.
Furthermore, we must speed up the implementation of the Youth Guarantee adopted by the European Council, so that all young people under 25 are offered good-quality employment, complementary training, an apprenticeship or an internship in the four months after they leave school or lose a job. The member states’ public employment services will be at the forefront of this project.
We want to discuss and build on these opportunities with the two sides of industry – the employers and unions –, because industrial dialogue is central to our convictions. It is also a guarantee of effectiveness. It is up to us to continue the reforms, create the spark and provide useful resources. For the rest, let’s trust in our entrepreneurs and our young people, who are brimming with ideas and plans!./.