Twenty EU leaders have met in Berlin to debate how to spend €6 billion in EU funds to combat record youth unemployment, but a German Social Democrat leader dismissed the summit as a ploy by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
EU leaders and the heads of the European institutions flew to the German capital on Wednesday (3 July) to discuss short-term efforts to fight Europe’s rising youth unemployment.
At a European Council last week, EU leaders pledged €8 billion to fight Europe's rising youth unemployment, with €6 billion to be spent over the next two years.
The money comes under a new “Youth Guarantee” to give every young person a job, apprenticeship or education offer within four months of finishing school or becoming unemployed.
Figures from the EU’s statistics office, Eurostat, on Monday showed eurozone unemployment had reached a record high, 12.1%, with the youth the group worst affected at 23.9%.
In a speech in Berlin, José Manuel Barroso, the Commission president, said: “We all agree that the current level of unemployment of young people in Europe is simply unacceptable. In a number of European countries we are facing a true social emergency. This must stop. We need to give young people the hope and perspective they deserve wherever they live in Europe.”
Merkel convened the summit, which opposition leaders claim is an attempt to paper over the economic consequences of her austerity policies.
Andrea Nahles, general-secretary of the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and manager of the centre-left party's campaign to unseat Merkel in a September election, said the chancellor had already held several "show summits" on a range of issues that yielded no results.
"I don't think Merkel's 49th summit will help," Nahles told Reuters. "She is now driving around Europe in an ambulance handing out band-aids for the injuries she has caused with her own policies."
She called for a change of German government and a European strategy to boost growth.
In Berlin, opponents of Merkel austerity staged a protest outside of the chancellory, with one banner reading "Europe's youngsters need more than Merkel's hot air".