The crisis and austerity measures implemented across Europe in recent years have had a disproportionately negative impact on the working and living conditions of young people in Europe. This is the reason why two years after the initial Inter-governmental Summit on Youth Unemployment in Berlin on July 3rd 2013, the ETUC Youth Committee and DGB Youth jointly organized an EU Youth Conference. The conference took place in Berlin on the July 1st and 2nd 2015.
Temporary jobs, precarious contracts, lack of basic social protection and even discriminatory practices on the basis of age are the norm for millions of young people who are trying to make their way into the labour market. Why the number of young people in the EU working with a temporary contractual arrangement is increasing and why the number of permanent jobs constantly falls - that was discussed with one hundred young trade unionists from all over Europe.
The agenda of the conference was full of interesting speakers. The opening of the conference was conducted by Michael Sommer, deputy Chair of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Elke Hannack, deputy DGB Chair and Patrick Itschert, deputy Secretary General ETUC.
Elke Hannac said: "We need more social Europe, where young people can see their future in prosperity EUY2020 strategy is key.“ Followed by Patrick Itschert adding that "We need to create high quality jobs, give to young people hope in better life & better social EU“.
Youth leaders had a fruitful debate about future of EU youth policy. Leaders, such as Florian Haggenmiller, DGB Youth President, Salvatore Marra, ETUC Youth President and Lora Lyubenova, Board Member of the European Youth Forum discussed: Austerity is paid by young people across EU, austerity has impact on their current life and prospect for the future. Democracy, solidarity participation and implication of social partners are crucial elements to address EUY2020 issues.
The DGB Youth organized a rally in front of Reichstag in Berlin for solidarity with Greek people. European young trade unionists say loud and clear "We don't want to be a lost generation".
ETUC and DGB Youth trade union delegates during the conference express full solidarity to the Greek population and deep concern for the present and future of the European project.
Florian Haggenmiller, president of DGB-Youth stated that "young generations in Greece and Europe are paying the unbearable price of a crisis we have no responsibility of". ETUC Youth Committee President Salvatore Marra added that "European decision makers should think hard and long before pushing Greece out of the Eurozone, thus taking the whole continent and the EU project towards unexplored territories".
Workers and citizens, in particular youth, have been pushed into poverty, left unemployed or with precarious jobs and a lower youth minimum salary imposed by the Troika. They were forced to leave their countries and sometimes deprived of access to basic rights like health and education because of the austerity measures unilaterally imposed in the name of a recovery which never materialized. Austerity, unprecedented cuts to public finances and structural labour market reforms have proved to be a failure: further action in this direction is not an option.
There is an alternative according to Young Trade Unionists: invest in the creation of quality jobs, restore collective bargaining, strengthen solidarity mechanisms and re-invest in key sectors like public services that will boost Greek’s and Europe’s job rich recovery. Governance and decision making processes at EU level need to be deeply reviewed with a citizenship and democracy-based approach: the Greek crisis is a clear demonstration of this.
During the conference young participants stated: “We refuse to resign to be a lost generation. We will engage to save the European project and its values: our generation has enjoyed peaceful decades without wars in a Union inspired by human rights, solidarity, freedom of movement and policies aimed at improving living and working conditions for all.”