Voices of the eurozone

Lucy Mair chats to European students about the the debt crisis and its impact on young people

France

Name: Thibault Roy

From: Paris, France

Degree: Politics and International Relations, University of Manchester

"In France, the eurozone debt crisis hasn't had a material impact - but it has affected people's confidence. Many French people are worried about their jobs and young people feel stressed because the unemployment figure for under-25s is more than double the national average.

I think the economy could be improved if people were made to work a little harder - the government is trying to raise the retirement age in France from 61 to 62, but the French people are strongly against this."

Germany

Name: Maia Hruskova

From: Munich, Germany

Degree: European Studies, King's College London

"Germans are extremely relieved when they compare their situation to that of other countries in the eurozone because Germany hasn't experienced any noticeable inflation and there haven't been any strikes or protests like elsewhere.

A lot of Germans are dissatisfied with the bailout plans for the eurozone because they don't understand what it means for a country to be bankrupt, or why they should make sacrifices to save countries which don't have the same economic performance. I'm a great supporter of Chancellor Angela Merkel, and I'm impressed by her political leadership. The British media has suggested that she's trying to assert German dominance in Europe through economic policy, but I disagree - Angela Merkel is the the most europhile leader on the continent, and she'll do anything to protect European economic stability.

My friends in Germany are far less worried about finding a job when they graduate than students in the UK. Germany has a very elitist system of higher education, which means that fewer people go to university and there are fewer graduates competing for jobs - in some industries there's actually a shortage of graduates."

Greece

Name: Thanasis Soultatis

From: Central Greece

Degree: Linguistics, University College London

"The average income in Greece has decreased by about 30 per cent in the past few years, and on top of this, everyday living expenses and taxes have increased. I understand the anger and frustration of Greeks whose standards of living are collapsing, but I don't sympathise with the strikes and protests which have occurred because people are just complaining without offering any solutions.

The EU treats Greece like a guinea pig. European leaders have no clear vision of how to get out of the debt crisis, yet they impose austerity on Greece and fail to see that it's pushing the country deeper into recession. It's one thing to ask Greeks to accept poverty, but it's another to expect them to accept the humiliation of being called lazy and corrupt: Greece is a very hard-working nation, contrary to the stereotypes in the European media. In my opinion, joining the euro was a mistake for Greece - but exiting it now would cause living standards to fall abruptly. Greece should try to remain within the eurozone, but the monetary union needs to be restructured to avoid similar problems in the future.

The prospects for graduates in Greece are very poor. Few businesses dare to recruit new employees and Greeks often have to hide the fact that they hold a university degree because employers don't want to pay them extra and prefer cheaper, unskilled employees."

Ireland

Name: Sean Norris

From: Cork, Ireland

Degree: Electrical engineering, University of Durham

In Ireland, jobs are drying up and lots of people are worried about their futures. My father and sister both work in the public sector, which has borne the brunt of the spending cuts. My father is a building inspector, but construction work has completely stopped so many people have been let go. My sister has just started teaching and she's seen her wages go down and her taxes go up.

Many young people are choosing to do postgraduate degrees, not because they want to further their studies, but because they can't find a job. It seems as though you need a masters or a PhD to work anywhere, but then people with those degrees are working in shops and takeaways because there's nothing you can do with the qualifications. I don't feel very optimistic about the future of the economy, and I can't see myself going back to Ireland for a long time.

Italy

Name: Pietro Novelli

From: Genoa, Italy

Degree: Business Studies, University of Manchester

"The new austerity package will change life in Italy completely, but I think it's a necessary step because we've created a huge government debt and now we have to cut it down. Italians realise that we can't afford to do whatever we want any more, but my fear is that the crisis is bigger than we think, so recovery will depend on factors beyond Italy's control.

In Italy, the prospects for university graduates are very limited. Italy is a paternalistic society where young people aren't given as many opportunities as they are in the UK. Companies rarely recruit new graduates, so those with good degrees and a high level of English just leave the country. Graduates who stay in Italy are forced to accept temporary contracts in jobs that don't make use of their skills.

I think the EU is an amazing idea: I can travel, study in another country and enjoy the same rights as British students. Our generation also has a unique sense of European identity. The problem is that we've started to create a common body, but we don't have a common fiscal policy or a common army. We need to complete the transformation of Europe into a true confederation of states."

Slovakia

Name: Katarina Komarova

From: Presov, Slovakia

Degree: Management, ESCP Europe Business School

"Slovakia has experienced a range of economic problems recently as a result of its transformation from a state-controlled economy to a market economy. Since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, economic growth has declined and many people have been made redundant.

Slovakia adopted the euro in 2009 and, despite the debt crisis in the eurozone, I think it was the right decision. The Slovak economy is dependent on industrial exports and by adopting the single currency Slovakia has avoided foreign exchange rate fluctuations within Europe and benefited from a more stable currency. Although Slovakia is one of the smallest economies in the eurozone, the union is based on the principle of solidarity and I support Slovakia in fulfilling its responsibilities by assisting with the bailout of other member states - regardless of their size or economic strength. However, I think a set of strict conditions and budget cuts should be binding on the countries that receive bailout funds.

A university degree isn't enough to start a career in Slovakia - employers also look for previous professional experience, experiences abroad, and fluency in two foreign languages. The most sought after graduates are those with degrees in IT and engineering, but the number of students studying economics and business exceeds demand in Slovakia, so many young people leave the country to start their career elsewhere."

Spain

Name: Alba Simón Muñoz

From: Madrid, Spain

Degree: Business, ESCP Europe Business School

"In Madrid, a lot of construction work has been left unfinished due to the lack of economic resources, and last time I went home I was shocked by the number of houses up for sale. On the high street, many shops are holding sales and supermarkets are selling "crisis packs". Young couples can't afford to live independently from their parents or ask for mortgages, and graduates have to accept temporary contracts in jobs that are underpaid."

Name: Julia Ventosa

From: Barcelona, Spain

Degree: Marketing and Creativity, ESCP Europe Business School

"It's difficult to find junior level positions in Spain because most companies are choosing to fill vacancies with interns. The Spanish government invests in educating young people through public universities, but the majority of graduates are forced to move to other countries to find work, which means they can't give anything back to Spain's economy.

The euro is important to Spain because it has opened the door to foreign investments and, up until now, it has been a source of economic stability. In order to guarantee the future of the euro, I think we need to move towards deeper European integration to make Europe more competitive with the US and China."

Figures: IMF and Eurostat

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