The Commission adopted today the communication "Working together for Europe's young people – A call to action on youth unemployment". It stresses once more that among all efforts to get the economy growing again, combatting youth unemployment is a top priority.
While most of the means are in Member States' hands, the EU level can help make a difference. The Commission has proposed a number of practical and achievable measures that have the potential for immediate impact, but some measures are yet to be agreed at EU level, in particular those linked to the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2014-2020.
The ESF has a proven track record of supporting activities throughout Europe designed to help integrate young people into the labour market. Looking ahead to the 2014-2020 period, the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) will have a crucial role to play in supporting young people and implementing the Youth Guarantee. An agreement on the next MFF and the programmes implementing it is urgently required to ensure that the ESF and other ESIF can be mobilised immediately in January 2014.
This agreement must reflect the priority that the EU attaches to fighting and preventing youth unemployment: a minimum share of 25% of cohesion policy funding for the ESF would help to ensure that at least EUR 80 billion remains available for investment in Europe's human capital.
In parallel, Member States are working intensively with the Commission to design the next generation of Operational Programmes that will govern how this funding is put to use. This is a golden opportunity to gear the new programmes to the most pressing reform priorities for growth and jobs.
To focus financial support still further on the regions and individuals struggling most with youth unemployment and inactivity, the European Council agreed in February to create a dedicated Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) to be supported by EUR 6 billion from the EU budget.
The Commission has proposed to concentrate support from the YEI in regions experiencing youth unemployment rates above 25%, and within these regions on young people This will target individual young people aged 15-24 not in employment, education or training (NEETs) and complement the support provided by the ESF for the implementation of the Youth Guarantee. These criteria should be maintained: any reduction in the threshold would spread funds too thinly to the detriment of those regions in greatest need.
To ensure that the money from the YEI starts flowing quickly once the legal framework has been agreed, the Commission proposes to adjust the profile of the next MFF to make available the entire amount of EUR 6 billion in commitments within the first two years of the next MFF.
In 2012, the Commission established joint Youth Employment Action Teams with the Member States experiencing particularly high levels of youth unemployment. These teams worked to help ensure that the EU structural funds are being used to maximum effect to support young people. Through this work, about EUR 16 billion of EU funding has already been targeted for accelerated delivery or reallocation. This will eventually help more than one million young people and the results are already being felt on the ground.
Building on this positive experience, the Commission is ready to relaunch and expand the Action Teams to work with the Member States eligible for financial support under the Youth Employment Initiative.
The Commission has begun a major reform to make the EURES portal more responsive to labour market realities and to strengthen the focus on the mobility of young people by offering jobs as well as opportunities to combine work with learning, such as apprenticeships. The Commission therefore calls upon Member States to make use of ESF funding opportunities and national funding sources to promote intra-EU labour mobility, including using EURES, and to reinforce the capacity of national public employment services in this regard.
The ESF is there to help: from 2014, financial support will be available for language and career-orientation training, travel costs and integration in the host country.