Merkel admits EU’s youth unemployment initiative has been a failure

Angela Merkel. Brussels, 2011. [European Council/Flickr]

During the EU’s Council summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted during the EU’s Council summit that the EU’s Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), launched a year ago, has so far been a failure.

Asked by journalists during her press conference Friday afternoon (27 June), Merkel said that youth unemployment is “clearly” one of the areas that needs to work better in the EU.

Youth unemployment has been emphasised as one of the next Commission’s key priorities together with energy security, strengthening the monetary union, foreign policy, and migration. 

Between 2007 and 2013, youth unemployment reached record highs across Europe, dramatically increasing from 15.7% to 23.4%, according to Eurostat. Currently, around 5.6 million young Europeans are jobless. In some countries, youth unemployment rates have reached critical levels, such as in Spain (55.5%) and Greece (58.3%).

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

“Six months afterwards, we are here and not one euro has been spent. I can only agree. Yes, you are right, it needs to be more efficient. We need to be faster. We need to be more efficient. We need to be more effective. It needs to be possible for us to spend the money, and to spend the money sensibly,” Merkel told journalists.

“I’m not pointing my finger at anyone, but nobody is able to understand why this is happening. It’s not really worth saying… Again, I’m not blaming the Commission, the member states… I’m just saying that the result is such that we need to change this,” the German Chancellor continued.

Moving forward in France

Earlier this month, France became the first and so far only EU country to receive an approval for its national scheme. The Commission will make funding available so that France can receive €620 million from the YEI and the European Social Fund (ESF). The money will go towards helping young people who not in employment, education or training (the so-called NEETs) to find a job in those regions where youth unemployment rates over 25%.

But though France secured the EU funds, the Commission has criticised the efficiency of national measures.

“Public services to promote youth employment (called ‘local missions’) are having difficulties proposing appropriate services to job-seekers,” the Commission emphasised in its recommendations on France’s 2014 national reform programme, issued on 2 June.

According to the Commission, the measures taken by the French government to deliver the Youth Guarantee are “insufficient”.

“The actual quality of this support, which includes CV-writing workshops and interview simulations, is unclear at this stage. Moreover, this guarantee only tackles a minor part of the overall youth unemployment, as there are 674,000 young people registered in total,” the Commission said.

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).

  • 16 July: Extraordinary EU summit in Brussels.

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