The leaders of France, Germany and Italy have pledged to commit some 6.4 billion euros towards tackling youth unemployment.
The trio made their promises at an EU jobs summit in Milan which had threatened to be overshadowed by their differences over fiscal discipline and austerity politics.
French President Francois Hollande said the stakes have never been higher: “We must consider the programme for youth employment as one of the programmes for supporting growth in Europe. It’s what’s at stake for Europe. If Europe is not capable of offering hope to the next generation, people will turn their backs on Europe. We see the risks, we see the danger. Europe must once again become an opportunity for young people.”
France and Italy had reportedly called for the EU to allocate more funds to boost job creation but Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was enough cash in the coffers.
“There’s no question that there is sufficient money. But we will have to get the money flowing. This is our main target…” Merkel said. “Of course we have to invest, yes. But as important is (the question of) which directions we invest in. For this, we need to know, which are the jobs of the future and not those of the past.”
Officials said the meeting was a “stock-taking exercise” to maintain momentum on measures such as the Youth Guarantee Scheme, an EU-wide initiative aimed at helping people under the age of 25 into work.
Unemployment in the eurozone is near record levels with August figures showing more than 18 million people are now out of work.