The future generation of Europe needs support today

Article published in Politico, 10/11/2016

by Laura Slimani and Sergei Stanishev

Each generation looks at Europe differently. For the older generation that lived through World War II, the European project was the guarantee that war would never happen again on the continent. For the next generation, it was a promise of prosperity. For the generations who grew up in the Eastern bloc, Europe has represented access to freedom and the hope of a better future. For today’s 18- to 30-year-olds, Europe means austerity, and the lack of future perspectives.

This situation is threatening the existence of the EU itself, as we have seen in the past few months. If we want all young Europeans to fight for Europe, Europe has to work for them. Of course, Europe means peace, it means cross-border mobility, it means better working conditions for women and men. But for the young people of Europe, this is nothing compared with the devastating effect of unemployment on their self-confidence; the pain of 20-somethings who are forced to ask their parents for “pocket money”; or the sadness of those who are homesick because unemployment forced them to leave their home countries in order to work abroad.

The only way to overcome the crisis of youth unemployment, poverty and social exclusion across Europe is to make sustainable investment in the skills and life chances of young people. That’s why the fight for high-quality jobs and social protection is at the top of the agenda for Europe’s socialists and social democrats — and why we are holding a Youth Action Day on November 16, 2016, with campaigns and public events across Europe.

Our campaign for a European Youth Plan is based on four main ideas:

  • No young people should be left out of an opportunity — we call for a permanent European Youth Guarantee, with strengthened funding of €20 billion up to 2020.
  • Culture should be present in everyone’s life — we call for a European Culture Cheque, a voucher that young people can spend on the cultural activities of their choice.
  • Education is at the core of our Europe’s cohesion — we demand Erasmus for all, a scheme that benefits all students, including those from poorer backgrounds, in high schools and vocational training schools.
  • Child poverty is not an option — we call for a child guarantee to ensure that all children in Europe have access to healthcare, education, childcare, decent housing and adequate nutrition.

Action is indeed urgently needed. Take the European Youth Guarantee, for example, one of our most successful recent projects. The guarantee was successfully introduced after pressure from our political family, and we have seen what a success it has been. It ensures that every young person under the age of 25 receives either a job, apprenticeship, traineeship, or a place in continued education within four months of leaving the formal school system or becoming unemployed.

After just three years of this scheme, nine million young people have entered Youth Guarantee schemes and have taken up employment, apprenticeship, traineeship, or continued education. From an initial budget of €6.4 billion, the Youth Guarantee has brought about major structural changes in many EU countries. There are now 1.4 million fewer unemployed young people.

Needless to say, this programme is needed now more than ever. The youth unemployment crisis is far from over. One in every five young Europeans remains unemployed, more than a third for more than 12 months. When austerity measures and spending cuts bite, young people are the first to lose their jobs or to find themselves in precarious employment situations.

But, just at the time when the Youth Guarantee is most needed, it is under threat. The original budget has been used up, and the European ‘s proposal for funding until 2020 means that 75 percent less money will be available yearly for the Youth Guarantee.

We find this reverse logic baffling. Investing in the skills of young people is the only way to counterbalance the disastrous effects of the austerity measures of previous years. In order for the Youth Guarantee to become a permanent feature of European employment policy and part of the European social model, we are fighting to ensure continued funding of €20 billion.

To make sure that European Union is synonymous with prosperity for young people, investment in skills and social inclusion is crucial. We want to make Europe a better place for youth — a place where every young person has the chance to go to work in the morning and live decently out of it. A place where no child goes to bed hungry. Where all young people can explore their own and others’ culture, and have the opportunity to learn abroad. Europe’s youth deserves a well-funded Youth Guarantee, an Erasmus for All, a European Culture Cheque. And Europe’s children deserve a real Child Guarantee.

As European socialists and democrats, solidarity is our lifeblood. So we encourage everyone to join our Action Day for Youth on November 16, 2016, and to stand with young people all across Europe. To date, we have confirmation that more than 100 events in 27 countries will be held in support of the Youth Plan on that action day.

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