European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has put further pressure on governments to create a pan-European youth guarantee scheme to tackle record levels of youth unemployment.
The scheme aims to ensure EU citizens aged between 16-25 would be offered training, full-time education or a job within four months.
Speaking in the European Parliament on Wednesday (30 January) Barroso said “it is clear that we must take even stronger measures to fight unemployment, notably youth unemployment.”
He added that there is still time to address the matter in discussions on the EU’s next long term budget.
The commission is pushing to allocate funds from the EU budget for governments to finance national schemes. One in four under 25s in Europe is unemployed, rising to over one in two in Spain and Greece.
Barroso admitted that the “social situation is very severe. Unemployment, in particular youth unemployment is a huge concern for all of us. In 12 of our 27 member states youth unemployment is higher than 25 percent.” He added that several EU countries faced a genuine social emergency.”
On Tuesday Economic Commissioner Olli Rehn emphasised the size of the bloc’s unemployment crisis, pointing out that over 2.5 million manufacturing jobs had been lost in Germany, France, Italy and Spain during 2012.
Barroso was speaking at the final session of the European Parliamentary week, with over 100 deputies from national parliaments in Brussels. Most MPs said that the European Semester was too focused on austerity.
Politicians also emphasised the need for national parliaments to take a prominent role in scrutinising economic reforms drawn up under the European Semester programme and new EU rules on economic governance. A paper prepared by the European Parliament’s research unit found that just three countries – France, Italy and Luxembourg – had held parliamentary debates on their National Reform Programmes (NRPs) in 2011 and 2012.
For her part, Sharon Bowles, the British liberal MEP who chairs the powerful economic affairs committee, commented that “only a minority of national parliaments are actually grilling their ministers on what is being negotiated. We could all learn from some of those countries where parliaments do get involved and give a mandate to their ministers.”
Germany, Denmark and Finland are among a minority whose MPs are required to give a mandate to ministers in advance of negotiations in Brussels.