European Council: “Plenty of talk, little money”
28 June 2013
Les Echos, Público, El País & 3 others
In a bid to combat youth unemployment, Europe’s 27 member states have stumped up €6bn for the 13 worst-affected countries between now and the end of 2015, a sum to which they are expected to add an extra €2bn from unused funds. General reaction across the European press suggests the plan is inadequate to address a problem that now concerns close to six million young Europeans.
Another subject on the agenda for the summit, the adoption of the 2014-2020 EU budget, has been set aside until the last moment due to London’s threat to withhold its vote if the UK’s rebate is called into question.
Will from the French to find a settlement, after a week of tensions with the European Commission; a last-minute compromise on the European budget secured after months of negotiations; and a last-resort agreement between finance ministers on the rules for initiating bankruptcy proceedings against banks, which came in the wake of a year of discussions.
Another month of June, another European summit. Plus a handful of almost anything. The programme to fight youth unemployment is not only ridiculously limited in terms of the funding that has been provided, but marks yet another failed attempt to yield results in the context of the “Lisbon Strategy”. However, it seems to be the best that Europe is capable of today.
“One year and another 1.7 million unemployed later, Europe is proposing the same recipe,” complains El País, which regards the decision to devote €6bn to job creation in 2014-2015, and the additional €2bn to be spent between now and 2020, as “piecemeal and modest” in scope, as well as being based on “small-scale data modeling”:
Six years after the onset of the crisis, 27 million Europeans are unemployed. A contingent equivalent in number to the combined poplations of Belgium, Austria, Denmark, and Ireland is twiddling its thumbs with no posibility of work. [...] Among the jobless, more than half a million are from Spain, the principle wellspring of unemployment on the continent. And growth is conspicuous by its absence.
“Jobs for young in the EU: plenty of talk, little money”, writes Gazeta Wyborcza. The €6bn to be spent between 2014-2020 will not be enough, André Sapir of the Bruegel Centre tells the Polish daily:
Projects designed only for young people will not make a “big difference”, as the problem is linked to unemployment across all age groups, and also with economic growth or its notable absence. I do realise that our “youth guarantees” are just peanuts, because without a return to economic growth, they will not create new jobs.
The billions of euros for jobs will be taken from the EU budget for 2014-2020 agreed on the same occasion by European leaders. However, notes the Warsaw daily, the final vote in the European Parliament will not take place for weeks:
The European Parliament will vote on the non-binding resolution in favour of the budget document next Tuesday or Wednesday. However, it will not be until after [summer] holiday that the MEPs will formally approve legal acts concerning the seven-year (2014-2020) budget as they cannot be prepared until next week. […] As long as EU countries keep their promise to slightly increase funds for this year, it is most probable that the outcome of the vote on the next seven year budget will be positive.
A meeting marked by “leaders happy simply to welcome agreements made earlier” temporarily risked turning sour when British Prime Minister David Cameron demanded reassurance there would be no changes to the UK’s controversial budget rebate, writes European Voice. As the site recalls —
At summits in December and February, the UK withstood French calls for the rebate to be scrapped or reduced, but France has in the months since continued to press for a modification that, according to British calculations, could oblige the UK government to pay an additional €351m into the EU’s seven-year budget.
All in all, writes Adriana Cerretelli on Italian economic daily Il Sole 24 Ore, the measures agreed in Brussels are no major breakthrough and the EU is still moving “as slowly as a pachiderm” if compared with the dynamism shown by its competitors, the US above all:
Unlocking the 2014-2020 EU budget offers the concrete means to take action. But they are objectively scarce. [...] The 6 billion will be split in 2 years among 5,6 million jobless young under 25. Europe always inches forward: a little help to those in need, but never enough. Some minor push for growth, but mainly symbolic. Because every country must learn to do on its own, creating its own development or searching for it where it’s at.