Today's date:
Summer 2013

Hope for the “Post-Crisis Generation”

François Hollande is the president of France. His comments are excerpted from his opening remarks to the “Europe: Next Steps” conference held in Paris by the Berggruen Institute on Governance.

PARIS—Six million young people are unemployed in Europe. But when you take a close look at the figures, there are nearly 14 million jobless people who aren’t studying, who aren’t on apprenticeships and who require us to show solidarity.

Those of the “post-crisis generation” will hold today’s governments to account for the rest of their lives, remembering that the post-war generation—mine—had the necessary support from Europe, the hope of finding a job and employment after our studies and, in short, doing well in life.

Can we leave today’s generation with this lack of prospects, this ill-feeling, this resentment toward governments and Europe? It isn’t simply anger that’s at issue, but a rift. A rift between this generation and the previous one.

At issue isn’t simply those governing at a particular moment being punished. It’s people’s very estrangement from the European enterprise. At issue is people’s idea of Europe. Not that everyone thought Europe had to meet every need, but there’s the idea nonetheless of a Europe which must be one of hope and protection. So we have to address this imperative today.

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT | A youth employment initiative already exists in the draft European budget, which the European Parliament hasn’t yet approved. Six billion has been earmarked for youth employment over the coming seven years.

Therefore, the first proposal I would make is that we could prepare the allocation of those funds once approved so that the relevant states and bodies can very quickly mobilize the funds and ensure that, in regions where the unemployment rate is above 25 percent we can have an implementation of this plan.

My second proposal is that we should urgently implement the idea of a Youth Guarantee that the European Council has adopted. This guarantee will ensure that, four months after a young person leaves training, school or university, a solution can be proposed to them: a job, training, an apprenticeship or even an internship. It’s an excellent principle. We must do this now.

I also want to channel the Erasmus Program (that funds students to study in exchange courses across Europe) to enable mobility for all young people: not only students but also apprentices. Hence the idea of a work-linked training Erasmus, a great idea that means all young people—whatever their background, wherever they’re trained—can be sure they’re going to do part of their qualification course in a European country other than their own.

Here too, the funds exist; let’s make them available now for this new purpose.

Beyond this, the key task is creation of new jobs, including through the so-called “intergenerational contract” where young apprentices are trained and then take over the jobs of those about to retire.

But in addition to any mechanisms we can create, what we need are companies that can propose jobs for today and tomorrow.

Too many companies have trouble gaining access to financing; too many creative people, including in the lowest-income neighborhoods of our towns and cities in Europe, are deterred, discouraged, hindered in their opportunities to take the initiative.

So financing should be mobilized. First of all, there is the European Central Bank (ECB,) which must provide more liquidity.

It is independent, of course, so I’ll take care not to give it any advice! Moreover, it’s no longer a matter of interest rates: interest rates are low. It’s about access to credit by companies, and particularly access to liquidity in the most vulnerable countries.

And there’s also the European Investment Bank (EIB). Everyone is looking to it. Everyone’s hoping the manna will be there and the resources available. From a certain point of view this is true—a year ago a growth compact was decided by the heads of state and government which increased the capitalization of the EIB by €120 billion.

These funds should be focused on new jobs creation in small and medium enterprises, linked to an Erasmus training program for youth.