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EP President: If we get into debt and don't provide anything, we'll be stealing from future generations

European Parlaiment President David Sassoli says he’s going to push for EU investment in opportunities for young people ahead of an EU financial package.

President of European Parliament David Sassoli speaks during a plenary session of the European Parliament.
President of European Parliament David Sassoli speaks during a plenary session of the European Parliament.
Image: DPA/PA Images

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PRESIDENT David Sassoli has said that he will be putting a focus on reinvesting borrowed money in young people as part of the EU’s inter-institutional negotiations of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

The EU Council and Commission and Parliament will go into discussions about the seven-year financial package for EU member states; this negotiation is of course coloured by the Covid-19 pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns and financial repercussions.

In a Q&A session held with several journalists from five other EU member states, Sassoli emphasised that some of this borrowed money – whether grants or loans – had to be spent on young people’s education and opportunities, and that he as the president of the European Parliament would be emphasising that point. 

“On the MFF, we want to discuss a few budget lines that we’re not particularly happy about,” he said, during a brief video interview. 

“I’m talking about budget lines that relate to culture, Erasmus and research… I think this entire field requires certain adjustments because we can’t make cuts to the funding available to young people if we want young people to be the future of Europe.”

In response to a question from TheJournal.ie, Sassoli said:

If [the EU's response is] not going to be sufficient, then yes indeed, this is going to endanger the future of our young people.
We are taking out debt, but we need to do it to give our younger generation a greater capacity and more opportunities. If we get into debt, but we don’t provide anything that will build a future for the younger generations, then yes indeed, [it] will be simply stealing resources from future generations.

Once a financial package is proposed by the European Commission, the EU Council must agree to it before it’s presented to the European Parliament for a final say.

The EU Parliament President is involved in these negotiations to give the plan the best chance of being approved once it reaches MEPs for a vote.

Sassoli said:

Parliament has the last say… given that, I thought it was very important that [European Commission] President von der Leyen really pay particular attention to the Parliament, because we all do have to make a joint effort here. 

There has been an ongoing disagreement about how the EU should tackle the financial impact of the Covid-19 shutdowns: Italy, Spain and France – the hardest-hit countries – are pushing for Europe to find a way to better share the financial burden.

But the Netherlands and Germany are sceptical, arguing that their big-spending southern neighbours could exploit the crisis to push for a pooling of eurozone government debts.

This echoes the challenges of austerity brought by the 2008 financial crash; EU figures are eager not to make the same mistakes when tackling this crisis.

Referencing the previous economic crash, Sassoli said that he intends to tell other EU institutions that “we are piling debt on future generations” – for some young people, it’s the second time in their lifetime that this has happened.

Whether we go for loans or subsidies that’s what’s going to happen. And so what we have to do is give them more capacity – that has to be the message that we’re going to send across. We have to put people in a position where they can achieve higher standards of wellbeing.

“I also think that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how our social model is really key for the lives of our citizens, and this is something that needs to be boosted.”

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The Covid-19 induced downturn will hit those who have started to build their career, and for the second time will be hit with a crippled economy and limited opportunities.

The Financial Times reported that France could see half of its young labour force be locked out of employment as firms stop hiring, and job adverts for young professionals in Germany have fallen by 37%.

As a Spanish academic put it: “Young people who enter the labour market in times of crisis often suffer long-lasting negative consequences in terms of their wages.” 

Sassoli said that there is also a responsibility on individual EU member states to look after the young generations:

“We’re calling upon the member states, and on the other institutions to ensure that they give the future its true value, and the young people so that they will not be further impoverished by this.

“We need clear leadership, development, work, reinforcing our social model, an economy that works towards the objectives we’ve set for this parliamentary term.

“European political decision-makers do have their eyes firmly on the future of younger generations,” he said.

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