EU 'first step' to help Europe's jobless youths

The BBC's Gavin Hewitt says the money will be used to help people in the first four months of unemployment

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EU leaders have ended their summit in Brussels by agreeing to put 6bn euros (£5bn; $8bn) into youth training schemes amid record unemployment.

They also agreed to promote lending to credit-starved small businesses, using an extra 10bn euros in funding.

Nearly a quarter of jobseekers aged 18 to 25 in the EU have no work.

Critics say the schemes will have little impact until countries return to growth but Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said they were a "first step".

In another development, outlined in the official summit conclusions, EU leaders confirmed they wanted agreement by the end of the year on a way to wind up failed banks at European rather than at national level.

They also approved accession talks for Serbia by January at the latest, as well as formalising Croatia's entry into the EU on Monday.

'Frankly appalling'

As of April, some 5.6 million young people eligible for work in the EU were unemployed, Eurostat figures show.

Greece had the highest proportion, at 62.5%, while Spain had 56.4%. This contrasted with just 7.5% in Germany.

Youth unemployment in EU

Unemployed Greek geography student George Boukouvalas, 23, in Athens, 17 June
  • Greece - 62.5%
  • Spain - 56.4%
  • Portugal - 42.5%
  • Italy - 40.5%
  • Cyprus - 32.7%
  • Rep of Ireland - 26.6%
  • France - 26.5%
  • UK - 20.2%
  • Germany - 7.5%
  • EU average - 23.5%

source: Eurostat, April 2013 (Figures for Greece & UK are for February 2013, for Cyprus - March); numbers represent jobseekers under the age of 25

The UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, said the number of young people out of work in Europe was "frankly appalling" and a huge block on the EU's ability to compete in the global race.

There was, he said, also a need to move faster and further in cutting excessive regulation and red tape. He said a new business task force would be established in the UK to take a fresh look at the impact of EU regulations on British business.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the key was improving competitiveness and not creating new pots of money.

The speaker of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, tweeted that the 6bn euros were a "start", albeit a "drop in the ocean".

"What we, the current generation of politicians, owe these young people are good ideas, courage and prompt action - in order to generate growth at long last," he said in a speech.

"After all, the most effective means of creating jobs - and thus of combating youth unemployment - is economic growth."

Budget deal

The plan to trigger much-needed bank lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) involves using an extra 10bn euros in funding for the European Investment Bank.

The idea is to encourage private banks to lend by giving them EIB guarantees.

French President Francois Hollande predicted the EU would have a single banking supervisor, and a mechanism for closing failed banks, in place by the middle of next year.

There was relief on Thursday when, after months of wrangling, a deal was clinched on the EU's long-term budget.

The 27 leaders backed the deal reached with the European Parliament - a 960bn-euro budget for 2014-2020, which cuts real spending for the first time.

There was a last-minute delay, with Mr Cameron seeking reassurances that new arrangements on rural development funds would not lead to £300m being deducted from the British rebate - which some French officials had been suggesting. He was told the rebate would remain unchanged, the BBC's Europe editor Gavin Hewitt reports.

Under the new budget deal, unspent money will be transferred from one year to the next, rather than returning to national budgets as at present.

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