The Fiedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedown has launched a new project that portrays the situation of instability and insecurity experienced by young people facing the new crisis caused by COVID-19. A situation that does not allow them to develop their projects or aspirations. David Henneberger, FNF Head of Offcice Southern Europe, has highlighted on Capital Radio's Atalayar programme the need for a common concern as a whole in the European Union regarding the inequality of opportunities, as well as the political, economic and social problems that this entails.
David is the project manager for Central America and Southern Europe.
Yes, formerly Central America, now Italy, Spain and Portugal.
From the Fiedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, they have been working for 60 years to strengthen freedom in society and the economy; in particular, they have produced this manifesto, this documentary for young people who have suffered the double crisis.
Yes, right. We differentiate between crisis generation and post-crisis generation, those who were born after 85, to see how these two crises affect these two generations. We have studied these generations in Italy, Spain and Portugal and we have made a comparison with Germany, a country considered to be more stable in economic terms.
You talk in particular about how policies impact on young people in southern Europe.
That's right. We are the liberal foundation. Germany has very close relations with the liberal party, the Free Democrats. There is one issue that always concerns us as liberals, equal opportunities. We are talking about Europe as a whole, it doesn't matter only if a young person in East Germany has fewer opportunities than a young person in Munich, we should be concerned about all young Europeans. This is one of the key reasons why we decided to do this study. Moreover, these social gaps can cause populism, nationalism... Unfortunately, if there is something not missing in Europe, it is these phenomena; we have to work together towards social cohesion in Europe. In order to give it the human touch, to tell the stories behind the figures, we have not only carried out this study but also produced a documentary that we presented to the Spanish press.
Trailer: "As soon as young people start to regain position in the labour market, another crisis hits again". "In the case of Spain there is a very high rate of early school leavers, twice the average, the highest in the EU. "They are not being able to translate their life expectations into reality. "Poverty as a child or young person is not the same as when you are an adult, it is more dramatic, it is a scar that is carried for life".
This was the trailer for the documentary, a series of testimonies that affirm that poverty has been rejuvenated in its age target and that young people in southern Europe are subject to a double crisis, much more so than those in the north. Would it be the same the other way round, would platforms in southern Europe concerned about young people in the north come to this point?
The risk we saw last year, when we saw the effects of the COVID economic crisis, has made us realise that if we don't act now, we are running the risk that the EU will fail, and this is something we do not want to take. There is criticism in the north, northern liberals even more so towards the common figures, but we all agree that we have to work towards that social cohesion.
We have to make sure that all this reaches young people, medium-sized companies, not just the big multinationals. If the crisis has shown anything in the south, it is the lack of diversity in the private economy. We need to diversify the economy, to be more productive in new sectors. This generally is not found in large companies or in the stock market, but rather through education, education-based companies, financing... this creates a motivation for young people to continue with their projects. At the same time it requires some security and some support from the state, the economic base has to be strong and broad.
Germany's economic development, for example, needs manpower; many times Spanish engineers have been hired in Germany. One of the big problems in Europe is the birth rate, which is very low, something which could collapse the system in the immediate future; that is why immigration is sometimes necessary. Europe should be aware of the need or the opportunities to study in one country and work in another.
As a German citizen who has lived for many years in Latin America and now in Spain, I would be annoyed. We should also see immigration as a single labour market. The EU is based on economic cooperation, and I believe that we are not really considering some concepts all the way through. If an engineer from India is looking for a job in the French labour market, can't move to Germany... There are things we are not thinking through.
The Low Cost society model that has been imposed after the 2008 crisis, everything as cheap as possible, plane tickets, clothes... We are creating a Low Cost society which pays Low Cost salaries. We have to rethink the society we want to build while trying to save a few euros, while making the labour market more precarious, especially for young people.
That is exactly why it is so important that new industries and new companies should generate more wealth. We are not going to win the battle against China or other countries in terms of production costs. We have to invest much more in scientific research, in companies... No longer like southern Europe, but like Germany or the EU as a whole.
The EU is looking for vaccines in Moscow, in Oxford...but there is no EU vaccine. We have to rethink recovering the industry we often brought to other countries due to production costs; and looking at the results, it turns out that Europe has a lot of gaps and a lot of serious problems. There are many problems with vaccination.
It is our civil right, and the state has limited it because of the pandemic. But, if I am vaccinated, the state should give me back that right. It is not so easy to say to someone that a right is limited, if the basis on which that limitation was based no longer exists, which was the danger of infection, of contagion.
I would like to ask you about Merkel, who is leaving the Chancellorship, what will happen with the post-Merkel Germany? Is Germany ready?
Young people who are 15 or 20 years old today don't know any other chancellor than Merkel. For them it is going to be complicated, but I think she is a very good political manager, the price of that good management has been a lack of political debates. Whereas Spain has too much of it, Germany lacks it. The lack of alternatives was a mantra of her government for many years, and I think Germany has to relearn how to debate some things in a civic way.