EU leaders pledge extra funds to tackle jobs crisis

BRUSSELS (AFP) - EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Friday agreed to deploy up to 8 billion euros (S$13.4 billion) in European Union funds to tackle the soaring youth unemployment crisis in Europe. But critics said the measures were nowhere near enough to tackle the problem.

EU President Herman van Rompuy said the summit agreed to start deploying an already agreed upon 6 billion-euro project from January next year. To that it could add 2 billion euros more from European funds unspent in other areas, he added.

"We took tonight a number of decisions that can and will create jobs," Mr Van Rompuy told reporters after the first session of the two-day summit.

Funds from the Youth Employment Initiative will be available to regions where the jobless rate for young people is above 25 per cent. The project will help seekers find work in other EU countries and increase work placements.

EU leaders have also agreed to boost the European Investment Bank, Mr Van Rompuy said. They would encourage the institution to give out more loans to small businesses to try to overcome the tight credit conditions such companies face.

Earlier, European Parliament president Martin Schulz said a 6 billion-euro figure mooted earlier on for the youth unemployment projects was just "a drop in the ocean".

EU officials have stressed that national governments will have to shoulder much of the burden in tackling the jobs crisis.

One in four young people are now out of work and the proportion is far higher in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

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