May 29 - Tackling youth unemployment will be high on the agenda at the European Council in June, with 64 per cent youth unemployment in Greece, and 57 per cent in Spain. As Kirsty Basset reports, French President Francois Hollande is calling for urgent action to address the growing problem.
Thousands took to the streets of Lisbon at the weekend, angered by high levels of joblessness - and a stagnant economy. They're especially concerned about youth unemployment - almost 40% in Portugal. (SOUNDBITE) (Portuguese) PROTESTER, HELENA CARDOSO SAYING: "This government is hurting us, hurting the working people, the pensioners the unemployed, the number of unemployed is raising and the young people don't have means to survive without help from their parents and grandparents, I don't know what will happen to our youth." Finding jobs for Europe's young is becoming a worry for many European leaders. French President Francois Hollande met with Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who warned that a failure to turn around youth unemployment could tear Europe apart. Hollande also met with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who's calling on the euro zone to triple aid to small businesses and subsidise the hiring of younger workers. 57% of young people in Spain are out of work. Hollande is hopeful the tide can be turned. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE SAYING: "We are conscious of what young people today are living through in Europe -- an exceptionally high unemployment rate, despair, a generational rupture -- because we're faced with that risk, we are mobilised. France and Germany, Spain, Italy too -- large countries who can be more concerned than others given their economic situation, but I have more than hope, I have certainty that at the European Council we will have strong propositions which will emerge." A sentiment echoed by U.S. Under Secretary of state Bob Hormats, who told the OECD conference in Paris it's not too late to reverse the problem. (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH BOB HORMATS SAYING: "We have no choice but to do our best to try. It's certainly gotten bigger over the last several years in Europe and the United States, particularly in southern Europe. But we have a chance now to remedy that situation because virtually every community wants to work with business to try to develop a combination of programs that would enable community colleges to train people to meet the needs of businesses." The issue is expected to be a central theme at the EU leaders summit in June. With one in four young people in the EU unable to find work, they'll be hoping the meeting produces some concrete measures.