At a Youth Employment conference in Milan on Wednesday 8th October, the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, echoed the International Monetry Fund’s concerns that youth unemployment remains “unacceptably high”.
The President’s comments coincided with the release of a report on the issue from the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department. Mr Van Rompuy named unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, as the highest priority for the European Union.
President Rompuy was hosted by Italian Prime Minister Renzi when he made the statement. The EU leader did, however, see light at the end of the tunnel:
“The problem is not evenly shared. In fact, there is a gap of about 50% between the Member states with the highest and the lowest youth unemployment. The positive reading of this is that national policies do matter…
“…There is a strong need to shift taxes away from labour. Potentially, this could be the single most important boost to employment right now.”
President Rompuy said the European Union should support such efforts by Member states by speeding up the development of EU-wide networks in transport, energy and digital. He commended the European Commission President Juncker for a 300 billion euro investment plan to do just that.
Prime Minister Renzi’s also received warm approval from the European Council President for his labour market reforms. Mr Renzi’s conference was proceeded by a meeting between the Prime Minister and Trade Union chiefs at the Palazzo Chigi in Rome. He followed up the conference in Milan with a hard-won victory in the Italian Senate, supporting changes to employment contracts and a plan to use spending cuts to fund a reduction in employment taxes.