The Brief, powered by Greens/EFA – It’s the youth, stupid

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK]

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easier. Fish are jumping and although COVID is high, and a nasty variant too, it’s not yet at everyone’s doors, at least for the time being.

On such mornings, one wants to rise up singing. The author of this Brief treasures the mornings because this is when bakers make us our croissants and journalists publish the stories you read to start your day.

This is the time of early morning communion. The Brief is our communion at the end of the day.

Going back and forth and talking to people is the essence of a journalist’s work, plus the capacity to communicate messages and make sense of them. Overall, the news is a mixed picture. And the messages are often contradictory.

Take for instance the news that the COVID crisis has not harmed our economies as badly as anticipated. But there is also the news that some sectors, like tourism or aviation, remain severely damaged.

The eurozone economy is projected to return to its pre-crisis level in the last quarter of this year, although it will remain below the level expected before the pandemic hit. Outside the eurozone in the EU, the forecasts are similar.

On the surface, it seems the EU has proved itself resilient enough to weather the COVID stress test, not least because of its recovery plan, which should not be underestimated.

But there is a glaring omission from this future strategy: young people, who have been hit particularly hard by the economic and social fallout from the pandemic and are suffering from a severe lack of opportunity, even in the bloc’s wealthiest countries.

Yet despite its name, the NextGenerationEU post-COVID recovery plan doesn’t have a youth dimension.

It doesn’t even add to the existing programmes – Erasmus+ and the Youth Guarantee. It has earmarked €82.5 billion for European public administration, but nothing specifically for the youth.

At a time when the EU is trying to imagine its future, there’s no wonder that such pessimism is oozing from the ranks of its youth, who will likely have to work hard to repay the loans contracted by today’s bureaucrats.

The EU has been good in putting forward a green requirement for the disbursement of its funds. Is it so difficult to use the same experience for adding a youth requirement in the EU action?

Industry might have a lobby for pushing forward a green agenda. What does the youth have? Almost nothing, because European political families, even the Social-Democrats, are not pushy enough.

But this is too important to be a partisan issue.

Investing in the youth will alleviate a lot of acute social and societal anxiety, but that’s a secondary aspect. Investing in the youth, in particular in education that could translate into real job opportunities, is a huge growth factor, probably bigger than we think.

It is the EU’s life insurance, and elderly and infirm as it is, the EU sure needs a good one.

Besides, this is a moment of opportunity. The EU is not a planet unto itself. We share it with other players, such as China or the United States, who use COVID as a springboard to aim even higher, banking on transforming the crisis into an opportunity.

The author of this Brief thinks the EU has got it wrong by neglecting to include young people in the recovery. Perhaps the mistakes can still be repaired. Other opinions are welcome.

A message from the Greens/EFA: Are we fit for 2030? The EU’s climate package could be a game-changer

This week, the European Commission publishes the biggest set of climate measures ever proposed. But to be the global frontrunner on climate action, the EU needs to step up.

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The Roundup

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday (14 July) a template for sharing out the burden of cutting greenhouse gas emissions within the EU, setting out national targets that the 27 member states are certain to wrangle over.

The EU has lost the battle for the Balkans, where Russia and China are offering bonuses without asking for reforms, geopolitical experts told an online conference organised by this week, proposing increased cooperation and a Balkan common market as the best way forward.

A new bill submitted to the Polish parliament aims to place restrictions on granting broadcasting licenses to foreign media, raising concerns about the further narrowing of press freedom in the biggest Eastern European EU country.

Airlines may lose a tax break on jet fuel that has drawn fire from environmentalists, while having to use more non-petroleum alternatives and pay a bigger emissions bill, under major proposals to make Europe the “first climate-neutral continent”.

A new carbon removal approach in agriculture will contribute to stepping up Europe’s climate ambition, the European Commission reiterated at the launch of its massive plan to cut carbon emissions by 55% before the end of the decade.

The European executive launched three proceedings against Hungary and Poland over what it sees as violations of fundamental rights of LGBTIQ+ people on Thursday (15 July), leaving Budapest and Warsaw two months to respond to its concerns.

The Commission also told Warsaw it would act to ensure that member states respect the precedence of EU law over their national systems.

Days after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko threatened to flood Europe with migrants, dozens of mostly Iraqi Kurds started arriving in Lithuania. In a cross-border investigation spanning Lithuania, Belarus and Iraq, EURACTIV’s media partner LRT digs into the new human smuggling route.

Current human rights-related reforms in Kazakhstan are a step in the right direction, stakeholders from the country told a recent EURACTIV event but European Parliament lawmakers across the political spectrum were not entirely convinced.

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday (15 July) adding shipping to the bloc’s carbon market for the first time, adding pressure to become greener on an industry that had avoided the European Union’s system of pollution charges for over a decade.

Look out for…

  • EC President Ursula von der Leyen visits Ireland in relation to the recovery and resilience facility/ Next Generation EU and the national Recovery and Resilience Plan
  • Vice-President Frans Timmermans visits Prague, Czechia and meets with PM Andrej Babiš, ministers, local, NGO, and farmers’ representatives.
  • Commissioner Mariya Gabriel participates in Digital Trust Executive Roundtable.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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