It is a first: the European social partners have been asked to express their views on youth employment in front of the heads of state and government and are determined to make the most of this opportunity. Until now they have only been invited by the presidents of the Council and the European Commission ahead of the spring meeting. A few hours before the meeting, European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) Secretary-General Bernadette Segol pledged to request a plan to kick-start growth and employment mobilising 1-2% of the EU's GDP. BusinessEurope, which represents private employers, will call for structural reforms of the labour market and strengthening educational systems.
"TALKING ABOUT EMPLOYMENT IS ONE THING, TAKING ACTION IS ANOTHER"
Three questions to Bernadette Segol, ETUC secretary-general.
The heads of state and government are expected to agree on concrete measures to improve youth employment. What are your thoughts?
I think the idea of using the 6 billion of the initiative for youth employment over the first two years is a good one. Especially since 6 billion really isn't that much money. The problem is deciding what to do in the five years that will follow, once all the money has been spent. Because we can't stop there. As for the youth guarantee, we want it to be included in country-specific recommendations and for there to be serious monitoring of what has been done. We also want the countries that put it in place, and therefore have to spend public money, to have this money taken out from their deficit. [...] I believe Commissioner Andor is in favour of this idea. Unfortunately, the decision is not in his hands as it lies with the heads of state and government, who must accept a different policy. I intend to remind them before the meeting that they made promises, in June 2012, for a growth and employment pact, and in December 2012 for a road map on the social aspect of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). I intend to hold them accountable. Unfortunately, I am worried that it is more likely that once again we will hear announcements, rather than concrete actions.
Did you obtain commitments from them during your tour of European capitals?
So far I have personally visited the leaders of 12 EU countries. But I did not ask them for any pledges. Instead, I summed up the situation for them: there are problems where unemployment, poverty, inequality, etc are concerned, and until now the policies that have been implemented have...