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Youth unemployment: regions should be given flexibility to use EU funds
​Marek Sowa

Local and regional politicians from across Europe gathered in Krakow today to discuss how best to cope with the worryingly high rates of youth unemployment. Marshal of the Malopolska region, Marek Sowa, argued that the recent allocation of EU funds to Poland over the next four years could allow the government to make headway in combating the problem. Nevertheless, he called for regional authorities to be given the flexibility to decide what education and training programmes should be delivered in their communities.

The call came during a Conference on Youth Employment organised by the Committee of the Regions – an assembly of local and regional politicians – in partnership with the Malopolska region. Speakers deliberated on how best to implement training and education programmes locally to tackle youth unemployment which in the EU stands at 22.8% with Poland seeing 26.3% affected. Poland had recently agreed that €13 billion of EU funds dedicated to training job seekers, helping small and medium enterprises adapt by investing in people, modernising vocational education and training, and investing in projects that improve cooperation between schools and companies.

Recalling that the Committee of the Regions had urged for EU funds to be allocated directly to local and regional authorities to allow them to design and implement training and education schemes locally Sowa said, “The greatest asset we have are our young people which is why investing in them is so important. We are delivering programmes which are making the difference and EU funds are an important booster to offer our young people a brighter future. As is the case in Poland, if regional governments are to deliver then we must continue to be given the flexibility to use the money to meet our local needs”.
 
Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, Poland’s Minister of Employment and Social Policy, argued that the conference had proved that tackling youth unemployment required cooperation between all levels of government, “We welcome the efforts by the Committee of the Regions for holding this event in Poland. Youth unemployment is a shared problem which needs a shared response. We cannot find an answer without taking joint action involving the regions, the Committee, the European Commission and member states”. During the conference Anton Rombouts, Mayor of the Dutch city of ‘s Hertogenbosch, stressed this point adding that, “Many young people ask why they should finish school when it doesn’t end with a job. I appreciate this attitude but cannot accept it. As politicians we need to write a new narrative that offers hope for our youngsters educating them not only for work, but to become good citizens based on values of tolerance and solidarity. To achieve this we need to work together - involving governments, businesses and civil society - to deliver an education that promotes economic prosperity and social cohesion”.
 
Fostering entrepreneurship and financial backing high-tech start-ups was also identified as being a sector that could make a difference. An opinion drafted by Mattia Tarsi, Member of Italy’s Pesaro and Urbino Provincial Council, pointed out that the number of developers creating applications in Europe was expected to rise from 1 million in 2013 to 2.8 million in 2018. With such expansion in the market, governments must exploit the opportunity and drive the sector forward. Tarsi remarked, “It is crucial to launch a new concept of education and mark an ambitious change in the next generation’s mind-set that fosters the entrepreneurial spirit. We need a new role for public administrations that far better meets the needs of investors’ and entrepreneurs’ and fulfils these needs specifically for high-tech start-ups”. In his opinion he argues that the EU must cut red tape, support those regions lagging behind and harmonise regulations locally to encourage young people to be entrepreneurial and think digital.
 
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David French
Tel: +32 2 282 2535
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