Today I am attending a conference in Sofia organised jointly by the Various Interests Group of the European Economic and Social Committee, the Bulgarian Economic and Social Council, the Bulgarian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the European Commission’s Representation in Bulgaria. The theme, youth education and employment, could not be more relevant to a member state where unemployment among the 15-24 year-olds stands at 32 percent. The European Union average for the age group is 22 per cent – one fifth! – and in Spain and Greece the figure is over 50 percent. Apart from the fact that this horrible situation is in direct contradiction with the policy ambitions of the Union’s Europe 2020 strategy, it is simply morally unexceptable and socially unsustainable. So what can be done? After introductory speeches notably from the President of the Bulgarian Economic and Social Council, Lalko Dulevski (who is also an EESC member), the President of the Various Interests Group, Luca Jahier, and the President of the Bulgarian National Assembly, Tsetska Tsacheva, the conference moved onto the meat in the form of two keynote speeches delivered by the Bulgarian Minister for Labour and Social Policy, Totyu Mladenov, and the European Commission’s Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Koos Richelle. The conference then broke into thematic seminars on the role of universities, policies and measures to prevent early school leaving and supporting growth and jobs through the modernisation of higher education systems. Like yesterday’s conference in Brussels, it’s impossible to summarise such a rich series of discussions, but Koos Richelle lucidly stressed the articulation between country-specific recommendations made in the context of the European semester and the Europe 2020 strategy’s targets. (In my poor picture, the television cameras are gathering for the ministerial speeches…)