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EU sets aside billions to tackle youth joblessness

Friday, June 28, 2013 - 02:31

June 28 - European leaders say worryingly high youth unemployment in the euro zone has to go down - and are pledging 8 billion euros over two years to spend on youth programmes. But as Joanna Partridge reports, the measures may not be enough to make an impact.

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Eight billion euros to fight youth unemployment. EU leaders agreed on providing those funds to a job initiative at a summit in Brussels. That's 2 billion euros on top of the 6 billion originally earmarked in February. The bulk of the money will be made available over two years from 2014 - and the rest up until 2020. SOUNDBITE: FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE SAYING (French): "If we use up all that credit, which is of course the point, if everything is spent - as I said spent, paid out, as was decided by both the European Council and by the European Parliament, provided they confirm it, was that if there's none left at the end of 2015, there should be a liquidity margin, which can't be spent elsewhere, which will be assigned to youth programmes." The leaders aim to provide young people a job, training or an apprenticeship within four months of leaving education or work. Over three years of crisis and cuts have sent the number of jobless soaring in southern, central and eastern Europe. Young people are the hardest hit - leading to fears of a 'lost generation'. Around 25% under-25s are out of work across the EU, and even worse in Spain and Greece, where it's close to 60%. Germany has led the way in calling for deep spending cuts in the struggling southern countries in return for aid. It's also been pushing for the jobs plan, concerned it might get blamed for any social unrest due to unemployment. SOUNDBITE: GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL SAYING (German): "We have to be careful not to make the wrong kind of promises, because it will take a certain amount of time to put the vast number of young people into a job. But we have to record the figures and at the end of the year compare the statistics and see what kind of progress we have made." Economists have been more critical. Some say the leaders' agreement is nothing more than a public relations exercise - and member states will also have to take action to tackle the jobs crisis. Ishaq Siddiqi is from ETX Capital markets. SOUNDBITE: Ishaq Siddiqi, Market Strategist, ETX Capital Markets, saying (English): "Although you can pump in more money and initiatives to get people back in to work the fact is that incomes are going to continue staying low, and household consumption is low and at the same time consumer sentiment is extremely low in these areas so for that reason I remain extremely skeptical." Helping the crisis-hit region return to growth will also be key for creating jobs. But Europe's leaders have spent the last few years grappling with economic problems, and it may take several years to get the economy back on track and people back to work.

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EU sets aside billions to tackle youth joblessness

Friday, June 28, 2013 - 02:31