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MP Antti Kaikkonen (ALDE) in the Council of Europe 25th April 2013:

Young Europeans: an urgent European challenge

At first I would like to thank both of the rapporteurs, Ms Polonca Komar and Mr Michael Connarty for raising awareness of one of the most alarming issues of our time. As stated in the Ms Komar’s report, the youth unemployment average across Europe is 22.4 %. Furthermore, in some countries this rate has rose to a level where over 50 % of the youth are unemployed.

We politicians often tend to worry about the lost tax revenue and possible income supports that are being paid. However the consequences can be a lot more dramatic than just problems with the states’ budgets, even though the money aspect is important as well. A whole generation of young people may lose their trust in the importance of education and in the belief that hard work will pay off in the end. What is the use of education if it is nevertheless almost impossible to find employment after graduation, some might ask. There is also a great risk that the negative attitudes and feelings of frustration will pass on to their children as well. Like shown in Ms. Komar’s report, parents can have a strong influence on how their children see the importance of education.

I believe we can all share the same concern: the situation is serious and something needs to be done. As a Finn I cannot but to mention the achievements made on a national level to combat the issue of youth unemployment and overall exclusion from society. “The youth guarantee”, a law that was enforced January 1st 2013 in Finland, guarantees that each person under 25 years of age, and recent graduates under 30 years of age, will be offered work, a work trial, or a study, workshop or labour market rehabilitation place within three months of registering as an unemployed jobseeker. An important note relating to this discussion is that the youth guarantee also includes an educational guarantee, which guarantees a study place for each young person finishing basic education.

The Youth guarantee in Finland is only a couple of months old and we do not yet have data on how it is working. However the principle of it is excellent; no one is left empty handed after finishing school and assistance is easily available.  It is in my understanding that the European Union is at the moment preparing a proposal of the Youth guarantee to be impelmented in every EU member state. With this in mind I would like to encourage also the rest of the Council of Europe Member States to consider this model and possibly modify it to answer their county’s circumstances. 

Finally I would also like to thank Mr. Connarty for introducing ways to improve youth involvement in society and ways to facilitate their access to fundamental rights. This issue is also very relevant in analyzing the solutions for youth unemployment and access to education.