The heads of state and government, accused of focusing to a fault on austerity, devoted part of their informal summit, on 30 January in Brussels, to ways of promoting job-creating growth. They backed the idea of improving mobilisation of Structural Funds or even reprogramming part of unused funds to support employment. In the absolute, however, the declaration approved by the heads of state and government, which will serve as a basis for national reform programmes, mainly reiterates long-standing commitments.
BARROSO'S PLAN FOR GROWTH
So rather than this statement of good intentions, it is the European Commission president's tangible proposals that emerged as the star document. At the opening of the meeting, Jose Manuel Barroso suggested using non-allocated EU Structural Funds (82 billion for the 2007-2013 programming period) to finance training and work experiences and to help small and medium-sized enterprises expand and develop. Barroso proposed to put in place a Youth on the Move pact to stimulate youth employment. It would be based on two initiatives: the first would incorporate the ideas of the Youth on the Move initiative presented in 2010 by the European Commission. It would encourage member states to draw up youth employment plans, increase training and apprenticeship opportunities, encourage youth mobility and guarantee that all young people end up in a job, education or training within a certain time after leaving school. The second initiative would offer special support to the member states with the greatest difficulties (Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Lithuania, Italy, Portugal, Latvia, Ireland and possibly Romania, which expressed an interest at the meeting) through action teams set up by the Commission, the member state and the national social partners.
The second flagship proposal presented by the Commission president consists of putting unused Structural Funds to work to provide support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). "We could, for example, reallocate funds from...