EU convenes emergency meeting to rescue Youth Employment Initiative

Youth unemployment

Unemployment among under 25-year-olds remains high, despite the Youth Guarantee's best efforts, [Flickr]

Brussels is hosting a special seminar Friday (11 July) to help EU member states receive funding as soon as possible under the the EU’s Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), which has so far failed to deliver results.

Until now, only France’s operational plan has been approved by the European Commission, illustrating a wider failure to implement national schemes under the YEI, which aims to tackle unemployment among young people aged 18-25.

Italy’s draft programme is in the final stages of discussions with the Commission while other member states such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland, Poland and Sweden are in the process of implementing projects to be financed by the YEI.

In Sweden, the government has frozen the funding it has received for three regions over fear of exceeding its budget ceiling.

>> Read also: Youth Guarantee funds ‘locked’ in Sweden

Between 2007 and 2013, youth unemployment reached record highs across Europe, dramatically increasing from 15.7% to 23.4%, according to Eurostat. Currently, about 5.6 million young Europeans are jobless. According to the latest data, the youth unemployment rate in Greece is at 57.7%, in Spain 54% and 42% in Italy.

EU heads of states and government launched the €6 billion YEI in February 2013, expecting member states to submit national schemes enabling them to seek money from the YEI at the start of 2014.

László Andor, commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion said the YEI funding has a crucial role to play as it’s meant to provide a first job, a traineeship, an apprenticeship or training courses for young people.

“This seminar aims to assist member states to accelerate the programming of measures to support young people financed by the Youth Employment Initiative and to put this money to the best use,” the commissioner said in a statement.

Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands have not been found eligible to receive funding under the YEI.

>> Read our LinksDossier: Fighting youth unemployment: An EU priority

Italian summit postponed

On Friday, an inter-ministerial summit on Youth Employment was supposed to take place in Turin, Italy, under the Italian Presidency, but it was postponed to later this year in Brussels. This summit was meant to be a follow-up on those that took place in Berlin (July 2013) and Paris (November 2013).

A spokesperson for the Italian Presidency told EURACTIV that the decision was made at the “highest political level exactly in order to safeguard the importance of the meeting and of the topics involved”.

“As also stated publicly by President Renzi, it will be better to deal with it when the European institutions will be fully established in order to enhance a key topic for Italy and European partners as final legacy of the Italian Presidency,” the spokesperson said.

The six European trade union federations (ETUFs) criticised the decision, saying it provides evidence that European politicians are ashamed of the dismal results in implementing the Youth Guarantee.

“This week’s failure of European leaders to share any positive results of the Youth Guarantee is testimony to the accuracy of the ETUFs’ prediction. Leaders have called for more time, with the summit postponed to the end of the year – a clear indication of the lack of political will to prevent a jobless generation,” ETUFs said.

According to the Italian press agency Ansa, organisers worried about safety issues. Turin was the scene of violent clashes between police and demonstrators in the past, on issues ranging from social housing to opposition to a high-speed rail link between the city and Lyon in France, to rallies against austerity-driven tax hikes.

EU heads of states agreed in February 2013 to launch a €6-billion Youth Employment Initiative, with the aim of making it fully operational by 1 January 2014.

At a summit in June 2013, they agreed to disburse about €8 billion – more than the €6 billion originally earmarked in February – to fight youth joblessness, with the bulk available over a two-year period starting in 2014 and the remainder becoming available over the full seven years of the next EU budget.

A Youth Guarantee scheme, introduced by each EU country according to its individual need, will apply to young people who are out of work for more than four months. It aims to give them a real chance to further their education, or get a job, apprenticeship or traineeship. The EU has a 2020 target of 75% employment for the working-age population (20-64 years).

  • 11 July: Special meeting on youth unemployment in Brussels.

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