Finding ways to get more Europeans in work and boost growth was the aim of a summit of EU leaders in the Italian city of Milan.
That includes labour law reforms and inevitably brought protests.
Trade unions opposed to the Italian government’s plans to make it easier to fire employees took to the streets complaining the workers are suffering disproportionately.
One demonstrator told euronews: “If we continue with these austerity policies southern Europe will be massacred. We can see what is happening in Spain, with the labour laws of prime minister Rajoy. Because [in the eurozone] we can’t devalue the currency, these laws devalue the workers, there will a rush to cut salaries, leading to conflict between the poorest people.”
Another marcher added: “These reforms are going to make everything very precarious, that’s the real problem.”
A third told us: “They are not addressing the interests of young people and future employment.”
“It’s all the fault of our politicians, they’ve governed without proper policies, which is why Italy is failing,” concluded another protester.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hopes the summit will focus attention on the unemployment crisis in southern European countries like Italy.
There the youth jobless rate has topped 44 percent and a generation of young people risk being shut out of the labour market.
In Milan, euronews correspondent Margherita Sforza said: “This is a demonstration against austerity, and job insecurity, a protest that has put Renzi’s government in a difficult position as Brussels is pushing for more structural reforms in Italy.”
Indeed the event was overshadowed by a dispute about national budgets. France and Italy are both in the firing line after putting back deficit and debt targets previously agreed with their European Union partners.
The gathering was billed as a “high level conference” on jobs and growth, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.
However no concrete measures emerged from the meeting, which lasted only around three hours and which was held ahead of a full European Union summit at the end of the month.