There has always been an assumption that the younger generation is more pro-European than those of us who are rather longer in the tooth.
There’s probably some truth in that generalisation. Opportunities that many younger people have had in Europe, for travel, and even for study or work, have been greater than for previous generations. Not surprisingly this has encouraged a more open-minded approach towards people from other countries, a more tolerant attitude towards different cultures, and a more positive view of the European Union.
But times changeand the present difficulties being faced across the EU, most notably in some of the Eurozone countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal, may well dampen the enthusiasm that many young people have for Europe and bring about a more sceptical attitude.
Let’s not forget that young people are actually having it harder than many. There are five and half million young people currently unemployed in Europe, while youth unemployment in Spain, for example, is an astronomical 50%!
Even locally, the East Midlands’ three largest cities – Derby, Leicester and Nottingham – have a combined total of 10,500 18-24 year olds on Job Seekers Allowance, with almost as many NEETS (16-19 year olds not in employment, education or training).
So when I spoke last Saturday to young Labour Party members in Derby, I wanted to stress that, in these difficult times, it is vital that socialists and social democrats are not only supporting young people but providing practical policies to do so.
The European Youth Guarantee would ensure that every young person in Europe is offered a job, further education or work-focused training at the latest four months after leaving education or after becoming unemployed.
It could be launched with €10 billion, coming from unused EU structural funds. And even with such a relatively small investment, we can bring 2 million young people out of unemployment by 2014.
Europe today is dominated by right wing governments, a right wing European Commission, and a Parliament where the main centre right party the European Peoples Party is the largest political group.
So it won’t be easy to push any kind of progressive policy through. But we do have to campaign for measures like this. All our futures – young and old – are at stake.