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Half-baked effort to tackle youth crisis

Socialists and demo­crats within the European Parliament have long ex­pressed their concern over the job crisis that has been facing European youth for a number of years now.

It is why they were the first as an influential group to call for a solution to the growing problems sadly threatening the future of millions of young men and women all over the continent.

It is also why the S&D Group eventually chose to come up with their own propositions, collectively tagged as European Youth Guarantee and sig-nificantly based on the urgent need for increased educational opportunities, the creation of new jobs and the introduction of effective training schemes that would prepare young people for work. After all, young people have been the biggest victims of both the current world financial crisis and Europe’s ongoing economic woes.

It is, however, not surprising to learn that the S&D Group has lately expressed mixed feelings on a youth guarantee as proposed by the European Commission as part of its employment package.

For all the good intentions, half-baked efforts to tackle the crisis in youth employment will not get us anywhere near the destination we all should have in mind, that is, serious job guarantees that come to fruition.

The leader of the S&D Group, Hannes Swoboda, did not have to mince his words when he gave his reaction to the European Commission’s freshly-announced proposal: “I am pleased to see the European Commission taking up the idea of a youth guarantee – we have been campaigning for this guarantee for more than a year – but, as it stands, it is not up to the challenge.

“We would have preferreda real European youthguarantee, backed withspecific funding.”

Swoboda rightly reiterated the S&D Group’s insistence on “a strong youth guarantee” that would be a powerful tool to fight unemployment among youngsters and one that would genuinely guarantee that young unemployed people anywhere in Europe “must be helped to find training, a job or pursue their studies”.

We are certainly not talking through our hats. The S&D guarantee is modelled on the highly successful Austrian system that has resulted in Austria having one of the lowest levels of unemployment in Europe.

Instead of fiddling with statistics, resorting to vicious hatchet tactics and comically inflating new jobs “created” to be able to wave surreal figures for propaganda purposes, as we have seen happen among us, ironically against the background of an increase in unemployment for the eighth month running, the Austrians chose to be practical, determined and creative at the same time.

The good results they have achieved are an indication that the system works and the rest of Europe would do well to take heed.

There are justified fears that the European Commission’s half-baked youth guarantee could turn out to be just an empty promise, given the way recent discussions on the future EU budget have gone.

Half of the young people in Europe are without a job. According to Alejandro Cercas, S&D Group spokesman for social affairs, “for the first time in recent history, young people cannot look forward to a better life than their parents.

A real European youth guarantee could be part of the solution in the fight against growing unemployment”.

Rather than just trying to cut budgets and introduce more austerity measures, Europe needs to turn to its own resources by way of giving the youth job guarantee a strong injection of commitment.

Pervenche Beres, chairman of the S&D’s employment and social affairs committee, echoed the general S&D view when he said recently that “the resources from the European Social Fund should be used effectively at national level to reintegrate young people back into society and the workforce”.

He has rightly called on EU leaders to agree on a strong budget for the European Social Fund, saying that “at least 25 per cent of the cohesion policy should be devoted exclusively to the European Social Fund”.

If the youth guarantee scheme has truly become part of the annual growth survey, the S&D stance says, then the European Commission must now ensure its effective implementation in specific national recommendations. Governments that, for some ideological or partisan reason, do not adhere to its principles and aims will only have themselves to blame.

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Joseph Cuschieri is a Labour MEP.

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