Giulia from Rome is such a case. 24 years old, she says that she feels very uncertain about her future. She has a part-time job as a secretary that pays badly. She expects that her limited contract will not be prolonged after three years of employment. As soon as she has a permanent contract, her company will have to pay higher taxes and she will gain more rights as an employee. And her company will not let that happen.
Giulia is disappointed in the educational system that did not prepare her for the job market. She is disappointed with her employer because he does not give her a chance to establish herself in the job. Regardless of her performance, she will not keep her contract.
“Team crisis” set out to investigate the attitudes of young Europeans like Giulia in three countries that were hit particularly hard by the crisis: Greece, Italy and Slovenia. Are the effects of the economic crisis strong enough to split an entire generation apart from the rest of the continent? Is the frustration about a difficult future so strong that it dismisses the positive aspects of an EU membership?
In each of the three countries we chose one particular aspect of the crisis to focus on. In Greece we chose the upcoming start-up scene that could be a glimpse of hope and get the economy growing again.
This building with red, geen and yellow writing is located in downtown Athens and was renovated by an investor recently. Now it hosts a cafè, an event space and offices.
Giulia (24) is from Rome and frustated with her work situation.
In the Slovenian capital Ljubljana the European flagg is a common sight.
In Italy we looked at the extremely high youth unemployment rate, which was at over 44% among the 15- to 24-year olds in August 2014. We could have gone to Spain or Portugal as well. These countries have similar unemployment rates. Nonetheless, Italy is trapped in a recession since the second quarter of 2014. This makes the country’s outlook especially dark: without growth, no new jobs will be created.
Slovenia was chosen as a specific case. Having joined in 2004, the country is one of the younger members of the European Union. It adopted the Euro in 2007 – only one year before the crisis started. Now, privatization measures are supposed to get the economy of the country going again. But how do young people feel about being part of a Union that does not only bring advantages?
Our journey brought us to interesting conclusions. Contrary to our expectations, the attitudes of the young people towards the European Union were mostly positive. We did not encounter the frustration and antipathy that is suggested in reports about anti-EU-protests in Greece or Italy shown on television. The members of the young generation we spoke to had a quite positive attitude towards the EU.
Especially in Greece and Italy the EU was seen as a chance for a better life. Our interview partners in Greece saw the crisis as a chance for them. An impulse that got things started and made people create their own jobs – in the form of start up companies. When it came to the EU, one start-up founder suggested that Greece should play a role in being the southern link between the Eurozone and the Middle East.
Our interview partners in Italy looked the other way round. They agreed that being part of the EU was essential for Italy. But they added that this time it was Italy that had to learn from Europe by taking best practice examples when it comes to education for example and applying them to Italy.
Greeks and Italians were united by criticizing their national governments for mistakes that had been made in the past. They agreed that it was the governments’ fault and not Europe’s that had pushed them into the crisis and that Europe is the strong, uniting power that will help them out again.
Italy’s former labor minister and professor of economy, Enrico Giovannini, summed these feelings up by saying: “The only way for Europe is to reinforce European governance and be big in a world that is growing very far from Europe.” According to him, a prosperous future lies within the community.
And surprisingly the members of the generation separation we spoke to mirrored this opinion. Giulia, for example, said that she sees hope for her future in going abroad.
We also came to understand that the biggest ongoing problem in Europe is the small economic growth. Of course only a prosperous economy will get people back to work. Therefore, Europe plays its biggest role as an economic union. This is also the aspect that describes the Slovenian point of view best.
Politician Matej Tonin, chairman of the conservative NSI party, said that for Slovenians, Europe is not a union of common values but only of economic interests. But there are two sides to the story because the members of the generation separation in Slovenia were separated among themselves: On the one side, some valued the European integration highly because they had come in touch with it by doing an Erasmus exchange for example or because it brought more tourists to their county.
On the other side, there were members of the generation separation arguing that Slovenia with its two Million inhabitants is too small to matter on the world market by itself and needs the European Union for this reason. Other Slovenians complained about the Euro making life more expensive for them without bringing any benefit.
On the streets of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana we came the closest we had ever been to the generation separation with some young people being rather indifferent towards the Slovenian EU-membership. But overall, most agreed that their country should remain a part of the EU because there would be larger disadvantages to being small and isolated again.