By Sam Fisk
It has been said many a time over but the fact remains: Europe is facing a lost generation. The recession and Eurozone crisis has hit the young hardest. Youth unemployment has hit 50% in parts of Europe with the UK suffering from over 1 million young people unemployed at 20%. If we do not act soon on this problem and begin reversing the trend then we will see the likes of USA and BRIC nations continue to not only catch us up but overtake us economically. The days of the EU topping the GDP table could never be seen in my lifetime unless we act now. Each time we delay bold action to tackle a lack of jobs, opportunities and training for young people our competitors go years ahead of us.
The biggest priority for solving this issue is tackling youth unemployment. So far the EU has been lacklustre in dealing with the vast scale of the problem, almost overseen by the need to bring stability to the region. Yes we need a stable Euro and economic recovery of the region to be the highest priority for Brussels but it must be realised it cannot be achieved without solving youth unemployment. There is as much short term gain as long term in giving young people jobs, opportunities and hope. It pains me to read the EU’s page on its recent initiatives on youth unemployment. To see figures such as 600 places for young entrepreneurs and 10,000 for volunteering schemes is enough to fill anyone with despair at the idleness of the EU Commission. I am not advocating the EU suddenly micromanages youth unemployment, politicians such as Clegg have shown countries are aware of the severity of it, but more must be done at a higher level. We must urge the EU to get businesses, unions and governments around the table and work out a solution to how we get more young people in work, education and training.
When we all suffer from the same problem, we must try and solve it together, instead of a narrow minded focus on our own countries. Bold large initiatives should be set out for the Eurozone to put investment into creating sustainable jobs in the private sector. Co-funding graduate schemes with small to medium size businesses to help them develop and grow, whilst encouraging the larger firms to do their part. Unions should be helping their members to progress in careers and ensure their work is not hindering a recovery. It is going to take more than a few hundred places and empty rhetoric to achieve something meaningful.
We must also look to the future of science and education in Europe. In a recent Eurobarometer poll 62% of young people (15-24) in the UK wanted to see Europe recover in the future through funding in in Science and education. We must realise that we can no longer rely on our service and knowledge based industry to stay a dominant economic player. BRIC nations, in particular China and India, are taking making of the jobs that we thought they were not ready to have for years to come. Scarily the future is coming around fast for Europe, and if the EU fails to invest in science research and education then the future will only come around faster. Using the EU to strategically invest in institutions that will benefit growth in the region and use it as a forum of co-operation we can forge a stronger sector. It is worth noting that the UK has already seen large investments from the EU to our universities which have been great for local economies and showing we are world class in this area. Yet there is no room for complacency.
It is time for young people to become more active in EU politics. Recently the Youth in Action fund, which saw €10 million alone comes to the UK to help young homeless and in need children, cut and merged into larger funds. We need a better lobby in Brussels to speak out against such actions.
It is time we realised Brussels is closer to us than we think. Its influence extends to our credit cards, our communities and our future. It is right on our doorsteps with the potential to solve deep structural problems and lead the way in our recovery. The EU is not our problem, but the solution to our problem, and it’s time it looked to solve a generation lacking in direction or hope. It is time for the EU to act now.