On the occasion of the first visit of new Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev to Brussels, Commission President José Manuel Barroso outlined an initiative to fight youth unemployment, which is most likely to be adopted at Monday's EU summit on growth and jobs.
Barroso yesterday (26 January) received the new president, who was in Brussels to meet with the EU institutions' leaders only three days after his inauguration.
Plevneliev is a businessman by background and former public works minister. He was elected as a candidate of the ruling centre-right GERB party of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
Barroso said he was especially concerned by the youth unemployment situation in the Union, saying it was "reaching crisis point". This is also a particular concern in Bulgaria with youth unemployment at almost 26%, he added.
"Other countries have even more difficulties in that area," Barroso said.
Youth unemployment stands at 30% in Ireland, 43% in Greece and 45% in Spain. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy recently asked that unused EU funds be used to stimulate youth employment and won the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said her country could be flexible in considering how existing EU funds can be used to stoke growth.
"I hope that the informal European Council will support my proposal to establish special action teams to produce targeted plans based on best practice, so that we can have job programmes for youth in all our member states, specifically those who have more difficulties in this area," Barroso said.
In this context, he added that there was a need for a review of the use of structural funds designated for regional development.
"We believe that this can be also a matter of discussion in the informal European Council – how we can, in some cases, redeploy unallocated money, money that is there, for the most immediate concerns and objectives in terms of growth in Europe," Barroso said.
Tapping unused funds for growth and jobs would likely be managed by the Commission in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB). The idea is outlined in a joint Franco-German paper that is likely to be discussed at Monday's summit.
Asked by EURACTIV if this was not a loss of sovereignty, Barroso said it was more about "sharing our obligations when we share common goals".