The FINANCIAL — One billion euro in EU funding to help member states get up to 650,000 young people into work will be delivered in 2015 thanks to European Social Fund rule changes approved by Parliament on Wednesday. This EU Youth Employment Initiative funding tops up European Social Fund (ESF) money in the 20 member states with regions where youth unemployment exceeds 25%.
The Commission proposal was approved without amendments by 632 votes to 30, with 31 abstentions, according to EU.
“We are in race against time and Europe is giving a boost to youth employment. The challenge was to reach a solid and widely-backed agreement in record time – and when we are determined, the EU delivers!”, said Elisabeth Morin-Chartier (EPP, FR), who steered the changes through Parliament.
The number of 15-25-year-olds who are neither employed nor in education or training, is growing alarmingly, especially in member states which have the most difficulty in matching EU funding for programmes. Frontloading funds is therefore of paramount importance.
YEI funding for 2014-2020 is €3.2 billion, to be matched by at least €3.2 billion from member states’ European Social Fund allocations. By February this year, the European Commission had approved 28 out of 34 YEI operational programmes, all of which could receive up to a third of their allocations as soon as amended rules enter into force.
The €1 billion in YEI funding to be made available this year will boost the EU’s contribution towards project costs from 1-1.5% to 30% in 2015. But this is not new money, as the funds had already been set aside for the YEI.
The countries benefiting from the initiative are Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
Member states will be able to launch the projects they need, but YEI operations must be implemented by the end of 2018. Progress on the ground in the early years will be crucial to the initiative’s overall success.
The rule changes now need to be approved by the EU Council of Ministers, and will take effect on the day after their publication in the EU Official Journal.