Commissioner Vassiliou speaks at the Youth on the Move event in Bordeaux
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Prime Minister and Mayor of Bordeaux,
President of the Aquitaine Regional Council and President of the Association of French Regions,
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen and dear friends,
I would like to start by saying how pleased I am to be here today with you in the magnificent city of Bordeaux, to launch the Youth on the Move initiative, which is close to the heart of the European project.
I would like, first of all, to thank the city of Bordeaux for its welcome and hospitality. Bordeaux and the entire region of Aquitaine will be the capital of Youth on the Move in Europe over the next few days.
The Commission has decided launch an initiative specifically intended for young people for two main reasons:
- first of all, the future prosperity of Europe will depend on the skills and abilities of its people. This follows on logically from a knowledge economy.
- secondly, our young citizens are among the people most seriously affected by the economic crisis, which has made the transition from the world of education and training to employment more difficult for them. We must now give back hope to the generations on whom our future depends.
Youth unemployment has reached unacceptable levels in most Member States. The average unemployment rate for the under-25 age group in Europe is currently over 20%.
My Youth on the Move initiative is intended to help our young people to enter working life with the tools and skills they need to succeed.
It is part of an overall strategy to end the crisis in Europe: the Europe 2020 Strategy. Under this strategy, which has now been adopted by the Member States, we have set ourselves two targets, specifically relating to education, for 2020:
- firstly, to reduce the school drop-out rate to no more than 10%
- and secondly, to ensure that at least 40% of young people complete higher education or obtain an equivalent professional qualification.
In my Youth on the Move initiative, I am proposing measures specifically designed to modernise education and vocational training and promote life-long learning. It is also my ambition, more specifically, to enhance the quality and appeal of higher education in Europe and increase the mobility of our young students in Europe.
For example, in particular:
- I want to encourage the young people of Europe to experience a year's study or training in another country by supplementing Erasmus grants with loans to help the less privileged students of Europe move more freely.
- I also want to create a Youth on the Move card to facilitate mobility amongst young people and make such an experience more appealing.
- I am also planning to develop new forms of mobility for young people to enable them to take up employment, in particular, by developing internships through the Erasmus programme.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are living in a world that is ever-changing. Our societies and economies are being transformed as a result of globalisation. There is movement not only of people, but also of linguistic, economic and geographical boundaries.
During this time of crisis, the best investment available to us is investment in people. We must help them to find out how to adapt and function in a rapidly changing society. Almost five million young Europeans are seeking employment. Many of them will miss out on future opportunities because they lack the appropriate skills.
Mobility and adaptability are crucial if everyone is to have the chance they deserve; in fact, they must be the rule, not the exception. Young people, must, in particular, be given the opportunity to improve their knowledge of languages, become more cultured and broaden their horizons. Almost 40% of the employers we surveyed considered a period of training abroad to be of real benefit.
But quite apart from economic aspects, and whatever form it takes, mobility promotes personal development. It is also an opportunity to acquire a sense of being part of Europe while at the same time respecting everyone else's individuality. Europe is a "state of mind" according to Jean Monnet. Movement undeniably promotes European integration by encouraging the development of the "state of mind" of which Jean Monnet spoke.
We at the European Commission are keen to see everyone in Europe develop. We therefore need to help those countries that are lagging behind now, because they will certainly be huge employment areas in the future. In view of the current crisis, the European project is not an option or an alternative, but a necessity.
I would like to conclude by drawing attention to the crucial importance of being able to speak and understand more than one language. This applies to all of us, but to young people in particular. As the Commissioner also responsible for multilingualism, I would like to take this opportunity to send a strong message: the young Europeans of today must learn foreign languages, which are among the keys to social and professional success in a world of increasing openness. However, I, as a citizen, am also convinced that by learning languages, our young people will individually and collectively prepare themselves for a better future. I have decided to convey my message in French today, but my speech will also be available in five other languages of the European Union.
I hope that our Youth on the Move initiative will soon encourage and motivate large numbers of young people to themselves take the initiative in an ambitious project at a European level.
Thank you for your attention.