Ireland's Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, has today urged EU member states to maintain the momentum behind the Youth Guarantee in order to ensure swift implementation to help unemployed young people across Europe.
The Minister was speaking in Luxembourg, where she co-chaired with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton T.D., the final meeting of the Council of Employment and Social Protection Ministers (EPSCO) under the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU.
On behalf of ESPCO, Minister Burton will write to the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, outlining the conclusions of today's meeting, including that funding allocated for youth unemployment initiatives, including the Guarantee, be front-loaded, and that concrete action plans be developed by all member states by the end of the year.
Once implemented, the Guarantee will assure young people under the age of 25 a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed.
Agreement on a recommendation for an EU-wide Youth Guarantee was reached at February’s EPSCO Council meeting, and since then, Ireland has continued to drive the negotiations in a bid to ensure national youth guarantee systems can be quickly rolled out.
Minister Burton - "Throughout Ireland's Presidency, I have prioritised the need to tackle the youth unemployment crisis, and I'm delighted that the issue is now at the very top of the EU agenda, and will be the subject of a high-level debate at the European Council next week."
"The Youth Guarantee represents a crucial part of the response to the crisis, and both the Council and member states now need to maintain the momentum behind it.
"Funding will be key to the successful implementation of the Guarantee, with €6 billion already allocated and discussions ongoing about further funding mechanisms. I now intend to write to President van Rompuy to outline EPSCO's view that funding for youth employment initiatives, including the Guarantee, be front-loaded from 2014.
"Member states, for their part, need to move swiftly to devise action plans to implement the Guarantee, so that young people receive the work, training and educational opportunities they need.
"Across Europe right now, 5.5 million young people – one in five of those aged between 15 and 24 who are on the labour market – are without a job. Research evidence shows that spells of unemployment while young can have a permanent scarring effect on a person’s life. There is no time to lose in tackling this crisis and it is imperative that the momentum behind the Youth Guarantee now be maintained so that we give hope to Europe's youth and show that the EU is capable of delivering for them."
The Presidency also achieved significant progress in a number of key areas:
On pension rights, a general approach was agreed on a Directive on minimum requirements for enhancing worker mobility by improving the acquisition and preservation of supplementary pension rights.
On the Social Investment Package, Member states today also agreed conclusions published by the European Commission in February, and on which the Minister held a major conference in Leuven, Belgium, in May.
The package works on a number of principles:
- Making sure that social protection is adequate and sustainable;
- Strengthening people’s opportunities to participate in society and in the labour market;
- Integration of services;
- Investing in children and young people;
- Independence for people with disabilities
- More equal opportunities for women.
On the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, while it has not been possible in the time available to reach an agreement acceptable to the member states, substantial progress has been made and negotiations will continue on the lines set out under the Irish Presidency.
Reflecting on the social protection aspects of Ireland's Presidency, Minister Burton said: "We have successfully reached agreement on three of my main priorities - namely the Youth Guarantee, the Social Investment Package and the Pension Portability Directive - and achieved substantial progress on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived. These measures will benefit millions of people across the EU, and the crucial issue now is that they be implemented as swiftly as possible."