Brussels

Letta hails Italian victory on jobs at EU summit

Italy comes up with nearly 1.5 bln euros for out-of-work youth

Letta hails Italian victory on jobs at EU summit

(By Christopher Livesay) Brussels, June 28 - Italian Premier Enrico Letta hailed a victory for Italy at a European Union summit Friday where a deal was struck on an important six-billion-euro job-creation fund for young people. "We have won (the issues) of youth unemployment and fairness from the European Investment Bank (EIB)," said Letta. "Youth unemployment has been the principal national commitment (of this government)". The deal was cleared after Britain and France settled their differences over a perceived cut to the UK's totemic budget rebate. EU leaders agreed to lay out six billion euros, rising to eight in 2015, for rampant youth unemployment affecting well over half young Greeks and Spaniards and more than 40% in Italy. "Now it's up to the businesses, firms haven't got an alibi anymore, they can hire young people," Letta told a post-summit press conference. However, with the EU economy flatlining in most member States or in recessions in more fragile nations like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy, Letta cautioned, "we must not raise our expectations too high on the jobs front". Italy, added Letta, had managed to "nearly triple our share" of the fund, bringing the sum up to almost 1.5 billion euros. "It's a huge result," added Letta, who specified that the first billion would be received over the next two years, while the remaining money would come in the future. Letta reported that another three billion euros had been earmarked for future use in the EU. A pre-summit finance ministers' meeting (ECOFIN) forged a deal to help struggling banks, seen as a platform for a future banking union to help backstop the euro, while the summit itself OK'd a plan to revive EU businesses as part of the bloc's new seven-year budget of almost one trillion euros. Letta said that the deal the EU reached for a banking union will ensure all small savers are protected from any eventual run on banks. "Accounts under 100,000 euros will be safeguarded in any bank crisis that takes place in Europe," Letta told a press conference in Brussels at the end of the two-day summit in Brussels. Letta added that the EIB had to be strengthened to make it the EU's "arm for the real economy" and that the European Central Bank (ECB) needed to be protected. He said that "in some countries there is morbid attention to the lead role" the ECB has been playing to combat the eurozone crisis, with its pledge to buy the bonds of countries facing soaring borrowing costs if this is needed to defend the euro. Reflecting on the summit, Letta said that, despite the last-minute Franco-British tussle, "We've all come out of this well".

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