“We must act urgently, six million young people are unemployed in Europe and almost 14 million are without work, not studying and not doing apprenticeships”, the French president told an audience at Sciences Po, the school of Political Sciences in Paris.
The French employment minister Michel Sapin and German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen worked together on the initiative. They hope it will improve access to credit for small businesses and enable young people to work more easily in other countries.
While the number of young jobless in Germany is the lowest in Europe at eight per cent, in France over 25% of 16 to 25 year olds are out of work. Greece and Spain have a particularly big problem with more than 55% of youngsters out of work.
“It is small and medium-sized businesses which create the most jobs for young people, we must support them”, said Sapin.
“Many small businesses, who are the backbone of our economies, are ready to produce but need capital, and that is only available to them at exorbitant rates. We hope to break this vicious circle, notably using the European Bank of Investment” added Ursula van der Leyen.
One idea is to extend the Erasmus scheme, (which allows students to study part of their course at a partner, foreign university) to include more work placements abroad.
Six billion euros are to be allocated towards boosting youth employment in the 2014 - 2020 EU budget, which has yet to be adopted. Hollande hopes that this money can be made available quickly.
Hollande is keen to promote the new initiative. Just after his election as French president, he declared that young people would be his priority.
He is also eager to flag up the fact that the plan is a joint Franco-German project, amid concern in France that he does not sufficiently value the Paris-Berlin axis.