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Le blog de Zita

Jobs and Growth for Tomorrow’s Europe

European Conference, Florence

Employment and growth were at the centre of the European Conference held in Florence, Italy, on the 25 and 26 October. This conference was organised by the CGIL, Europe’s largest trade union in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

I accepted their invitation gladly, as it was a good opportunity for academics, trade union leaders and politicians to exchange and put forward solutions regarding the most serious and pressing issue that Europe faces today. How can we effectively tackle unemployment and restore a sustainable and inclusive growth, while preserving our European Social model? This question is, and has to be at the top of our European agenda but has yet to be successfully addressed by the European Union. That's why, in the current situation, all forces and -progressive- ideas are needed and I believe in the added-value of such meetings gathering people from different backgrounds and bringing different perspectives.

I was speaking during a panel called "tomorrow's Europe" that took place on Friday. I underlined once again that the austerity-only policies advocated by the conservatives have only worsened and deepened this crisis. The worse is that it appears that they still haven't learned from their past mistakes. Their reasoning remains the same: austerity, austerity, austerity. Not only is it economically inefficient, but it threatens our social model and cohesion. Even the IMF recently pointed out the tragic miscalculation regarding the impact of austerity measures.

As a result, women and young people have been hit hardest by this crisis and Italian citizens and trade unions know it too well. Indeed, women represent the largest group of employees and users of public services, the same public service that have been so harshly ‘attacked’ due to austerity measures. Not to mention that women still face many obstacles when it comes to accessing the labour market equally. According to recent figures (September 2011) women's unemployment rate in Italy is 31.8 %.

The situation of European youth is equally preoccupying. We have today more than 5.5 million young unemployed people in Europe. I cannot accept that Europe is facing what some are already referring to as ‘a lost generation’. No society, no countries, no continent can move forward when the youth does not have hope or perspectives. That’s why we, in the Party of European Socialists, have been actively campaigning for a European Youth Guarantee, which would guarantee a job, further education or a work-focused training for every young person after becoming unemployed or leaving education. It has already been successfully implemented in Austria and Finland, and several European countries are now following.

Finally, I also underlined that beyond the current financial and economic crisis there is a serious lack of vision, too. We need a vision for the future, a vision of Europe we want to live in. A vision of tomorrow’s Europe.

Tomorrow’s Europe needs to combine competitiveness and social justice. It should respect the differences of the individuals and the unity of the community. Europe’s nation states in themselves are not strong enough to withstand the consequences of the crisis and to create the conditions for future development. Therefore we need a strong European Union which is based on our core values: solidarity, democracy, equality and freedom.

It is often said that the European Union has always made its greatest progress through crises. Given the extent of the current crisis, I think this is the right time to start to outline the Europe of tomorrow.

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