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Brussels, 20 December 2011

Press statement by President Barroso on the Youth Opportunities Initiative

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,

The economic crisis is making work harder to find for millions across Europe, in particular our young people.

5 million young Europeans, the future of our society, are currently unemployed and need our help. The rates of young people seeking work in some of our member states are simply staggering, reaching nearly 50% in some countries.

In my State of the Union Address, I launched the idea of a young opportunities initiative. Today we are delivering on that promise.

Obviously, the primary responsibility for employment policy lies with member states, but we believe that the European Union can contribute in a positive way.

Working in partnership with member states and the social partners, we need to tackle systemic issues for instance reducing early school leaving, development of apprenticeships and traineeships experience schemes - we can make them with social partners, with the business community, with the representatives of the business community and also with trade unions - and also labour reforms to facilitate entry into the job market.

The Commission will support Member States' efforts by providing policy guidance and financing.

In terms of immediate action, we expect Member States to address youth employment in their 2012 National Reform Programmes under the Europe 2020 strategy.

The Commission will also systematically address youth policies and measures in the 2012 Country Specific Recommendations.

Commissioner László Andor will outline the Communication in more detail in a moment. I would just give just one example. We need to make much better use of existing funds that are not yet committed. €30 billion of the European Social Fund is still not committed to projects and can help Member States to create larger scale support schemes for young people. In addition, we will provide €1.3 million of technical support through the European Social Fund to increase the number of apprenticeships schemes.

I think these measures are indeed very urgent and they can be put in place if there is a good coordination between the Commission and the Member States and also, I insist, with the social partners. This is one of the measures I see which can not only respond to the very urgent social need but also make a positive contribution to growth.

I want to underline this point and it will be my final point: we have been discussing the need of fiscal stability Union at the last European Council, more imperative rules in terms of fiscal discipline and this is very important. At the same time we should not forget what we can and should do in terms of growth enhancing measures. That is why I would like to ask the Member States to focus their attention also on our Annual Growth Survey that puts a lot of emphasis on measures that can have an impact growth.

I hope that the next European Council end of January or probably beginning of February will devote attention to growth and the Commission is ready to come with new ideas, some of them are already implicit in the Annual Growth Survey and others that we can develop so that we can be have some more sustained efforts for growth.

And then I want to conclude once again sincerely wishes for the festive season for all of you and thank you very much for your hard work as journalists during year that was exceptional in terms of news and I can promise to you next year will also be exceptional in terms of news.

So Happy New Year to all of you!

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