European leaders on Friday agreed to deploy 8.0 billion euros ($10.4 billion) to help create jobs for young people at a summit that also backed a tentative deal on the EU’s next trillion-euro budget, despite simmering doubts.
The threat of a “lost generation” of young Europeans added urgency to the talks in Brussels, even though the pressure from the financial markets seen at the height of the eurozone debt crisis has eased in recent months.
“We have to give people jobs and we should not make false promises,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the talks in Brussels which are to wrap up later on Friday.
“The main thing here is about improving our competitiveness,” she said. “It’s not about creating more and more pots of money.”
Leaders agreed that funds from the Youth Employment Initiative could be deployed from January 2014 to promote work placement programmes and help job seekers find work in others parts of the European Union.
But critics said the measures were nowhere near enough to tackle the soaring jobs crisis, with European Parliament chief Martin Schulz calling them “a drop in the ocean”.
One in four young people in Europe is currently out of work – and that proportion is far higher in crisis-hit southern eurozone countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy, where officials warn of a “social emergency”.