EU leaders promise jobs for 'lost generation' of youth

Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:01pm EST
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By Leigh Thomas and Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) - European leaders pledged on Tuesday to make fighting youth unemployment in the bloc a priority but came up with no new ideas to tackle a problem that risks fuelling social unrest and distrust of mainstream parties.

Nearly 6 million people under the age of 25 are without work in the European Union, with jobless rates among the young at close to 60 percent in Spain and Greece.

A July jobs summit in Berlin set out plans to devote at least 6 billion euros over the next two years to addressing the problem - a big headline figure that looks less impressive when spread among the many unemployment blackspots in the region.

Hosting a follow-up summit in Paris, French President Francois Hollande said any country that submitted a national plan to fight youth unemployment by year-end would immediately receive EU funds to implement their program.

"It's crucial to act quickly," Hollande said. "We can't abandon a generation ... we need jobs and training that offer young people real prospects."

But with the leader of the euro zone's number two economy more unpopular than ever and bigger neighbor Germany still in political limbo following its election, conditions for advancing a potentially divisive debate could hardly be less favorable.

Though youth funds are to be rushed out, European leaders did not pledge additional money nor propose any new Europe-wide policy initiative to kick-start hiring of what EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said was a "lost generation".

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy urged member states to pursue labor market reforms to spur hiring and said that he expected joblessness to diminish in the coming year.   Continued...

French President Francois Hollande (C) and EU head of states including German Chancellor Angela Merkel (first row,3rdL), Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta (first row,3rdR) and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (2ndR) pose for a family photo during an international summit on youth unemployment attended by heads of states from EU countries at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 12, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer