The first event effectively highlighted the drastic situation that exists in many countries. In a debate entitled “Young People without Work, Europe without a Future”, politicians and academics discussed the issue with Pablo García-Berdoy, the Spanish Ambassador to Germany.
Thomas Ellerbeck, Chairman of the TUI Foundation’s Board of Trustees, emphasised the special significance of the situation in his welcome speech: “The young generation’s perspective also extends to the issues of social peace, political stability and social cohesion in the affected countries, but also to Europe as a whole.”
The Spanish Ambassador also spoke of a genuine challenge for society:
We neglected the intergenerational contract in the good years. That was and still is wrong because you lose perspective if you don’t consider the next generation.
He believes that the migration of many of his compatriots to other countries provides opportunities for both the people themselves and for Spain. Spending time abroad strengthens character and allows a person to gain work experience that will benefit both them individually and their country when they return. Gunther Kirchbaum, MP and Chairman of the European Affairs Committee, on the other hand, believes that migration means the crisis-stricken countries are losing educated citizens. He proposes that job opportunities for young people should be provided at home to avoid a “brain drain” that would be very difficult to recover from. Nations are at risk of losing an entire generation because that generation will have gone elsewhere.
One of the focal issues of the discussion turned out to be whether we can talk about a “lost generation” or not. Jakob von Weizsäcker, Member of the European Parliament, emphasised the serious nature of the situation with those words. He was contradicted by Mark Fliegauf, Fellow of stiftung neue verantwortung, who proposed that it be called the “impoverished generation”. Weizsäcker called for better comparability of vocational qualifications and their de facto recognition in the labour market.
The panel agreed that the situation has been caused by both economic and, more importantly, structural deficits. New strategies must now be introduced that address the problem to prevent social cohesion from being further undermined.
This TUI Foundation and stiftung neue verantwortung project has an Expert Circle that was set up to consider the pros and cons of concepts to overcome youth unemployment in Europe.