On 7 November 2015, Nicolas Schmit, the Minister for Labour, Employment and the Social Economy, attended the 11th Mediterranean Economic Rendezvous. This conference, organised by the Mediterranean Institute/Femise and the Circle of Economists, closed the Marseilles Mediterranean economic week by highlighting the need to "strengthen the partnership between the European Union and the Maghreb through training and entrepreneurship".
The initiative presented in July 2015 by the Luxembourg Presidency during the Informal Meeting of Ministers for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities was at the heart of discussions. It received the full support of the economists, experts, actors on the ground and political leaders present at the meeting. In their final declaration, they consider this proposal to be "a first essential step in tackling the problem of youth unemployment".
"The social question and, more specifically, the issue of youth employment, is a matter of political stability and security"
"The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union attaches great importance to the social aspect", explained Nicolas Schmit in his opening speech. "The lack of perspective among many of our citizens is a catalyst for the rise of extremist movements and distrust of political powers", he declared, before stressing that "the social question and, more specifically, the issue of youth employment, is a matter of political stability and security". An observation which, according to the Minister, applies as much to northern countries as to southern Mediterranean countries. "The Mediterranean is a space shared between the countries on both shores", added the Minister, who appealed for the "creation of new solidarity-based relationships".
The idea of the Euro-Maghreb initiative for youth employment means "investing in our young people so that they can participate fully in economic life and build their future", reiterated Nicolas Schmit. The initiative aims to strengthen and renew the partnership between Maghreb States and the European Union in order to encourage youth employment more actively. The creation of quality employment is a priority. The Minister considers vocational training to be a factor which helps to bridge the gap between offer and demand on the labour market. The initiative therefore aims to give a new lease of life to vocational training so as to support investments which create employment, encourage entrepreneurship among young people and turn informal work, which offers no protection, into decent formal employment.
Nicolas Schmit explained that, at the heart of this initiative, which aims to complement the efforts already deployed, there is the idea of "creating a North/South network for training bodies in order to:
- Align methods and programmes through a participative approach (public stakeholders, private sector and civil society),
- Continuously train trainers in new techniques,
- Contribute to the renovation and modernisation of centres' equipment and to staff training,
- Build partnerships with the private sector,
- Encourage synergies between vocational training and higher education,
- Certify the new programmes and methods implemented in order to evaluate the quality of training in line with international standards".
The participants appealed for "the creation of a specific common fund in order to mobilise the EUR 200 million required for the programme in order to get this first step in favour of youth employment started as soon as possible"
In their final declaration, the conference participants considered Nicolas Schmit's proposal to be "a first essential step in tackling the problem of youth unemployment".
"It is a dark time for Europe and Maghreb", warned the conference participants, stressing that "some countries have reached an alarming situation in which two-thirds of job seekers are aged between 15 and 29 years old and, in Europe, 5 million young people are unemployed, with 50 % youth unemployment in a country such as Spain".
The meeting's participants listed the goals to be achieved.
- Completely modify their traditional approaches to North/South relations in the field of vocational training. Up until now, the traditional approaches involved passing on technical know-how by sending experts overseas. The new approach involves developing programmes together, implementing them at similar levels and developing fully common standards for accreditation.
- To that end, balanced networks of North/South vocational institutions and universities will identify the best professions and training centres in the Euro-Mediterranean area.
- This new approach requires placing the beneficiairies of vocational training at the heart of development projects instead of the interests of institutions.
"We solemnly ask the institutions which traditionally finance development programmes (World Bank, EBRD, AFD, EIB, European Commission) to create a specific common fund in order to mobilise the EUR 200 million required by the programme in order to get this first step towards youth employment started as quickly as possible", they concluded.