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Can Europe Recover Its Youth?

Overcoming Europe’s serial crises and the growing sense of hopelessness among young people will require leaders to stand together. They must find the courage to invest and reform, demonstrate solidarity on key policy issues, and develop a clear vision of Europe's place in the world.

BERLIN/VIENNA/ROME – None of us has a memory of internal European borders. Instead of collecting national stamps as children, we collected the first euros with different symbols of European capitals. Our generation has been thoroughly shaped by a united Europe.

But many young Europeans today are disappointed and frustrated by the European Union’s failure to fulfill its implied promises. The alarmingly high youth unemployment rates of 25-40% in countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain, and even Sweden provide more than sufficient reason for many to question the EU’s worth. Moreover, despite living in an era of peace and relative prosperity, our generation has grown up amid a multitude of crises: financial, migration, climate, and now the current health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19.

While the coronavirus was claiming its first lives in Bergamo, Italy in late February 2020, people were still singing at après-ski parties in the Austrian resort of Ischgl and celebrating Carnival in Cologne. But as the pandemic spread rapidly across Europe, it soon became clear that individual nation-states could not conquer the virus or achieve economic recovery by themselves.