February 28, 2021

Germany Works to Curb E.U. Youth Unemployment

Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, and Vítor Gaspar, his counterpart in Portugal, announced a plan on Wednesday to use the German state development bank to help set up a financial institution to assist Portuguese under age 25 in getting jobs or training.

Earlier this week, Ursula von der Leyen, the German labor minister, signed an agreement with her Spanish counterpart, Fátima Báñez García, that foresees bringing thousands of young Spaniards to Germany for apprenticeships. At the same time, Germany will seek to help Spain build a dual-track vocational system in which young people earn qualifications through a combination of work and study.

The initiatives are part of a recent multipronged effort by Berlin to quickly get more young people into the work force, a move that experts say is crucial if a unified Europe is to survive into the next generation. “What is decisive is that we must be faster and more definitive in fighting youth unemployment,” Mr. Schäuble said.

More than 5.6 million people under 25 are without work across the Union, according to figures released by Eurostat. Among the countries with the largest number of young people out of work are the weaker members of the euro zone that are undergoing deep cuts to social services and other structural reforms, part of efforts to recover from the ongoing debt crisis.

Germany grappled with its own youth unemployment problem early last decade. While its numbers then were nowhere near the 60 percent of young people now out of work in Greece, or the nearly 56 percent in Spain, German leaders say their experience can be of value to their E.U. partners.

A crucial element of Germany’s success has been its dual vocational training system, in which young people work three to four days per week in their chosen sector and spend an additional 8 to 12 hours per week in the classroom. At the end of their training, the students must pass a test to receive a certification of their skills.

Ms. von der Leyen said that several of the recent bilateral agreements foresaw programs to help develop a similar system in other European countries.

Next week, German and French officials plan to draw up a bilateral agreement on employment when they meet alongside European business leaders at a conference in Paris. On July 3, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany will gather labor ministers and the heads of 27 E.U. labor agencies in Berlin for a meeting to further discuss the problem.

Details of what the proposed German-French initiative would entail remain vague, but Mr. Schäuble insisted that financing would not be an issue.

He cited the €6 billion, or $7.8 billion, that the Union has earmarked in its new budget for addressing the problem, as well as additional funds that were given to the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg intended for loans to small and midsize businesses, which would help create more jobs.

“We are working to use the existing funds more efficiently,” Mr. Schäuble said in Berlin.

Some experts say the recent bilateral efforts fall far short, given the size of the problem in Europe. Others highlight the need to act quickly, citing studies showing the damaging effects that long-term unemployment can have on youths.

Unemployment in the early stages of a person’s career has a negative impact on the ability to integrate into society, or, in the case of the Union, to later support the idea of more integration on the Continent, said Joachim Möller, director of the Institute for Employment Research in Nuremberg. “The long-term effects reach far beyond the working world,” he said. “It could be catastrophic for their idea of Europe.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/business/global/germany-works-to-curb-eu-youth-unemployment.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

An Optimism Movement in Spain

Even so, some resilient Spaniards have taken up the challenge of getting their countrymen thinking that things are not as bad as they seem.

“All that is now happening in our politics is clearly hurting us,” said Elena Herrero-Beaumont, who last November started an optimistically-themed blog called Bright Spain. “But I’m convinced Spain will come out stronger from this crisis.”

Spain’s troubles are real, of course, and have battered the national psyche of a country that has been through some dizzying transitions in the last 35 years, from dictatorship to democracy and from complete independence to the shared sovereignty and shared currency of European Union membership. The confluence of problems within Spain and in the broader union have not just hurt business but have also left many people feeling unmoored. For some, the answer has been a search for the silver linings that might restore some modicum of national pride and confidence.

Students at the Camilo José Cela University in Madrid, for example, have begun publishing a periodic newsletter called Buenas Noticias, or Good News, with the backing of corporate sponsors including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Maripé Menéndez, the university’s director of communications, said it was meant to cheer up both its readers and its journalists. “We need to generate some optimism among our students, and make them understand that, however difficult the situation might look, Spain will eventually come out of this crisis,” Ms. Menéndez said.

In the first issue in December, the emphasis was decidedly upbeat. Instead of focusing on the 26 percent unemployment rate, Buenas Noticias published articles about companies that are recruiting workers in Spain, including Renault, McDonald’s and Telefónica, which is offering 200 internships. (The 5,600 workers Telefónica plans to lay off over the next three years went unmentioned.)

The most committed optimists say Spain’s main problem is one of communication.

“The Spanish authorities basically spent four years denying problems such as those of the banks, thinking that such denial would protect Spain’s image,” said Ignacio de la Torre, a partner at Arcano, a Spanish wealth advisory and asset management firm. “But the result turned out be exactly the opposite.”

Arcano recently published a bullish economic study written by Mr. de la Torre called “The Case for Spain,” intended to help debunk some “common myths about Spain,” including the idea that Spaniards are inefficient. It highlights statistics showing Spain’s productivity outpacing that of Europe’s largest nations in recent years.

The government’s own efforts center on “brand Spain.” It appointed a high commissioner last June to promote it: Carlos Espinosa de los Monteros, a former director of the clothing company Inditex, one of Spain’s biggest corporate success stories.

“The main challenge is to mobilize all the resources we have, within and outside Spain, to tell the positive side of the story without bragging,” he said.

Still, he conceded, economic realities intrude. “I have almost no budget,” he said, “because this job was created amid spending cuts in the administration.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/14/world/europe/an-optimism-movement-in-spain.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Despite Ban, Protests Continue Before Spanish Vote

MADRID — Tens of thousands of demonstrators across Spain continued sit-ins and other protests against the established political parties on Saturday. They did so in defiance of a ban against such protests and ahead of regional and municipal elections on Sunday.

About 28,000 people, most of them young, spent Friday night in Puerta del Sol, a main square in downtown Madrid, the police said. They stayed even as the protest ban went into effect at midnight under rules that bring an official end to campaigning before the election in 13 of Spain’s 17 regions and in more than 8,000 municipalities.

Fueling the demonstrators’ anger is the perceived failure by politicians to alleviate the hardships imposed on a struggling population. The unemployment rate in Spain is 21 percent.

Beyond economic complaints, the protesters’ demands include improving the judiciary, ending political corruption and overhauling Spain’s electoral structure, notably by ending the system in which candidates are selected internally by the parties before an election rather than chosen directly by voters.

The protests, which started May 15, have spread gradually across Spain. Spaniards overseas have also held some protests in front of their embassies to show their support for an alternative campaign that has almost eclipsed that of the established parties.

Although some of the protest groups have called for people to vote for smaller and alternative parties, or to cast a blank ballot, the movement could lead to a decline in voter turnout on Sunday. In the elections four years ago, 63 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Sunday’s election is expected to result in a countrywide sweep by the Popular Party, the main center-right opposition, at the expense of the governing Socialists, whose popularity has plummeted because of the economic crisis. The most recent opinion polls suggest that the Socialist Party may lose in regions and municipalities where it has been in power since Spain’s return to democracy in the late 1970s, notably Castilla-La Mancha.

Whatever the outcome, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced in April that he would not seek a third term, paving the way for the selection of a new Socialist leader before the general election, which is expected in March 2012.

As the campaign ban came into force at midnight, many of the Madrid protesters stuck tape across their mouths to signal that they would continue the demonstration, even if ordered to be silent. “The voice of the people can never be illegal,” read some of the banners, while others argued, “We are not against the system but the system is against us.”

Still, the government suggested that it would not order the police to use force to break up any protests and sit-ins in Madrid and elsewhere over the weekend, especially given that protests this week have not generated any violence. Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, speaking during a visit to the Murcia region, said that “the police are there to solve problems and not create new ones.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/world/europe/22spain.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Tens of Thousands in Spain Defy Protest Ban

MADRID — Tens of thousands of demonstrators across Spain continued sit-ins and other protests against the established political parties on Saturday. They did so in defiance of a ban against such protests and ahead of regional and municipal elections on Sunday.

About 28,000 people, most of them young, spent Friday night in Puerta del Sol, a main square in downtown Madrid, the police said. They stayed even as the protest ban went into effect at midnight under rules that bring an official end to campaigning before the election in 13 of Spain’s 17 regions and in more than 8,000 municipalities.

Fueling the demonstrators’ anger is the perceived failure by politicians to alleviate the hardships imposed on a struggling population. The unemployment rate in Spain is 21 percent.

Beyond economic complaints, the protesters’ demands include improving the judiciary, ending political corruption and overhauling Spain’s electoral structure, notably by ending the system in which candidates are selected internally by the parties before an election rather than chosen directly by voters.

The protests, which started May 15, have spread gradually across Spain. Spaniards overseas have also held some protests in front of their embassies to show their support for an alternative campaign that has almost eclipsed that of the established parties.

Although some of the protest groups have called for people to vote for smaller and alternative parties, or to cast a blank ballot, the movement could lead to a decline in voter turnout on Sunday. In the elections four years ago, 63 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Sunday’s election is expected to result in a countrywide sweep by the Popular Party, the main center-right opposition, at the expense of the governing Socialists, whose popularity has plummeted because of the economic crisis. The most recent opinion polls suggest that the Socialist Party may lose in regions and municipalities where it has been in power since Spain’s return to democracy in the late 1970s, notably Castilla-La Mancha.

Whatever the outcome, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced in April that he would not seek a third term, paving the way for the selection of a new Socialist leader before the general election, which is expected in March 2012.

As the campaign ban came into force at midnight, many of the Madrid protesters stuck tape across their mouths to signal that they would continue the demonstration, even if ordered to be silent. “The voice of the people can never be illegal,” read some of the banners, while others argued, “We are not against the system but the system is against us.”

Still, the government suggested that it would not order the police to use force to break up any protests and sit-ins in Madrid and elsewhere over the weekend, especially given that protests this week have not generated any violence. Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, speaking during a visit to the Murcia region, said that “the police are there to solve problems and not create new ones.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/world/europe/22spain.html?partner=rss&emc=rss