Monday, December 19, 2011

European Quality Charter on Internships presented in Paris

European interns working outside or after formal education should earn at least 60% of the median income or the national minimum wage of a European country, say the European Youth Forum, MEP Emilie Turunen and a range of other stakeholders in the new European Quality Charter on Internships that was presented at a Youth Employment conference in Paris last week.

The signatories stress the fact that internships and apprenticeships should be a learning experience to integrate young people into the labor market, not a means for companies to replace a full-time position with an unpaid internship. Therefore, they should normally take place within an educational programme and be appropriately remunerated.

At the Youth Employment conference organized in partnership with the OECD, panelists from the European Commission, the European Parliament, Trade Unions and youth organizations also debated the fate of Europe’s young population in the economic crisis. With youth unemployment rates between 45% in Spain and 7% in the Netherlands (September 2011 figures), young Europeans are disproportionately hit by the crisis. Reasons for this are the fact that the crisis first eliminated new job vacancies that could have put youths into employment, and that an employer’s need for particularly skilled personnel increases in a crisis, thus making it difficult for young people without prior work experience to meet the requirements.

To improve the situation for young unemployed, the European Commission is set to come out with a Youth Opportunities Initiative tomorrow, 20 December (update: now online here) working towards a “Youth Guarantee”, and a Youth Strategy in the spring of 2012. “Young people should be either in education, or in work,” said Jean-Louis De Brouwer, Director of the Division “Employment, Lisbon Strategy, International Affairs” in DG Employment of the European Commission, adding that they may be offered a qualification measure if they have not found a job after four months of unemployment.

At the conference, I interviewed the Member of the European Parliament Emilie Turunen, European Youth Forum Secretary General Giuseppe Porcaro, Santa Ozolina, in charge of the Quality Charter for Internships on the part of Youth Forum as well as Ben Lyons, Co-Director of InternAware. You can watch a round-up about the Quality Charter here and the individual interviews below. 

See the individual video interviews here:
  • Emilie Turunen, Member of the European Parliament
  • Giuseppe Porcaro, Secretary General of the European Youth Forum
  • Santa Ozolina, Policy Officer Employment and Social Affairs at the European Youth Forum
  • Ben Lyons, Co-Director of InternAware (will be available on Monday)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Youth urge leaders at Durban conference: GET IT DONE!

As the Durban climate conference is going into its last negotiations (follow them at the tag #COP17 on Twitter or via Google News), young people have been given the floor to speak on behalf of global youths, representing half of the world's population.

Global Youth's message to Durban is perfectly clear: Failing in climate negotiations is the "most stark betrayal" that a generation can commit against following generations. And its message is perfectly simple: GET IT DONE!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Durban summit: Is China becoming a climate leader?

Three more days of climate negotiations in Durban and the EU's hopes for a binding agreement are vanishing into the distance. Climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard already told the European Parliament in November that she did not insist on a binding agreement but was prepared to make concessions, if other countries agreed to a binding commitment from 2020 and a clear roadmap until then.

After no ratification of Kyoto and no progress in Copenhagen and Cancún, I am by now downright resentful of the United States that shot down the Green Climate Fund upon arrival in Durban and that now prefers to nag China before committing itself to any binding accord. I have laid out before my view that emission reduction cannot wait and that developed countries should lower their emissions irrespective of what developing countries do.

Now, the US has waited for so long that it seems China might not only outgrow its economy but also become a leader in emission reductions. On Monday, China stunned the world by announcing that it supported a binding agreement by 2020 (albeit in return for five conditions such as common but differentiated responsibilities and a continuation of developed country subsidies for developing countries).

The Chinese volte-face leaves the US and India in a cold shower, and it makes the US and Canada as developed economies look particularly isolated. As it currently stands, the US refuses a binding agreement, at this point as well as for the year 2020. It pledges to reduce emissions by 17% until 2020 given 2005 levels while China says it "achieved a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions between 2005 and 2010 per unit of gross domestic product and planned to cut another 17 percent by 2015" (given that GDP is still growing at around 8%/year, absolute figures continue to be on the rise).

Even though Chinese emissions are still rising in the short term, signs are multiplying that citizens are becoming increasingly unwilling to put up with air and water pollution. Millions of Chinese citizens protested online yesterday after several days of severe pollution in Beijing that caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights across China. The government heavily subsidizes the installation of solar panels on rooftops in parts of the country and China recently became the world's biggest investor in renewable energy.

These developments indicate that something is changing in China. With capacity-building and technology from the EU, China is moving onto the path of sustainable environmental development. It might be on the way to becoming a climate leader within in the next decade. The US, meanwhile, continues to pretend that life will always go on as it has before. It thereby not only endangers its own citizens but also citizens of the rest of the world.