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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso at the "Youth on the Move - Make it Happen" event

Press conference

Antwerp, 17 May 2011

Welcome and thank you, it is great pleasure to spend the whole day here in Antwerp.

"Capital" is a good name for Antwerp. Antwerp is considered a shipping capital, a diamond capital, a fashion capital, and after today's visit I can say also a culture and art capital. I bring you another capital title, the European Youth Capital. It is a good way to commemorate the contribution of Antwerp to our common project and to our common future.

And indeed no plan for the future can succeed without taking due account of the aspirations of young people. That is why developing the potential of our young people is a central pillar of the European Union's plans for 2020 and beyond, what we call the Europe 2020 agenda or Europe 2020 Strategy.

Young Europeans have been hit hard by the crisis. The reality is that the youth unemployment rates stand at more than the double of the European average and we are extremely concerned by this.

I think it is probably the first time, at least since the Second World War, that a new generation faces the future with less confidence than the previous generation. And this is a matter of concern.

I believe it is right and important that we provide full support to our young people. In an economy where they compete against the world for jobs and are expected to spend more time and money studying than before, our young people deserve full recognition and the chance to develop their potential. In a society that will rely on them to keep alive our important social achievements like pensions and universal health-care, everything that makes part of what we call the social market economy which is part of the European heritage, it is important that our young people should not come of age wondering if there is a place or a job for them in Europe. Of course there must be.

Antwerp serves as a wonderful example of embracing the dynamism of the young – it is as I mentioned already a perfect venue for 2011 European Youth Capital.

So we at the European Commission are making a concerted effort at opening up opportunities – be it for studying abroad, developing new skills, or getting a first job. Whether it is to study or to work, Europe should be your home country. We wish to breathe new life into the systems that make these opportunities possible, because we know that the promise of free movement depends on many things, including affordability and making sure that the diplomas of young people and their skills are also recognized all over Europe.

That is why at the European level the Commission, myself together with Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, we are focusing our attention in what Europe can bring in terms of value added to youth policies. Of course a lot depends on what can be done in the national level – or regional or local level – but there are some areas where the input of European policy, sometimes also of European funding, can give more instruments for mobility, for recognition, for creating this space of opportunity. Because it is about opportunities. And that is where I believe the European Commission, the European institutions, the European Union in general have a special duty towards our young people.

That is why I want to state once again that we will invest in young people because it is right, and because it is essential.

In return, we will call on young people themselves to seizenew opportunities.

I thank you for your attention, and I look forward to taking your questions.

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