An EU 'Blue Card' for high-skilled immigrants?

  

The EU is eager to attract high-skilled immigrants in order to fill its looming demographic crisis and related skills shortage. But experts warn that the right conditions must first be set. 

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Overview

The Hague Programme, endorsed by the European Council in November 2004, envisaged the creation of common immigration and asylum policy guidelines for the (then) 25 EU member states. The Programme also stressed the importance of having an open debate on economic immigration at EU level. 

Economic migration, if correctly managed, could help the European Union face its demographic challenges and reach the objectives set in the EU’s Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs. 

The European Union is indeed rapidly aging: there will be one retired person for every two workers as early as 2050. And while employment rates rise, it is becoming more difficult to match Europe’s growing demand for labour, especially for high-skilled and seasonal workforce. 

The challenges and opportunities of economic migration have prompted the European Commission to adopt a Green Paper on an EU approach to managing economic migration, in January 2005. The Green Paper sought to launch a discussion on: 1) the most appropriate Community rules for admitting economic migrants, and; 2) the added value which could be brought by EU action in this policy field. 

In December 2005, the Commission issued a Policy Plan on Legal Migration which defined a road-map for the Hague Programme. The Policy Plan listed a series of measures to be adopted until 2009, including a horizontal directive introducing a single permit and a single procedure for migrants seeking to work in the EU. It also included four sectoral initiatives: 

  1. A proposal for a directive on the conditions of entry and residence of highly skilled workers; 
  2. A proposal for a directive on the conditions of entry and residence of seasonal workers; 
  3. A proposal for a directive on the conditions of entry and residence of remunerated trainees. 
  4. A proposal for a directive on the procedures regulating entry and residence of Intra-Corporate Transferees (ICT); 

The first proposal was presented by the European Commission in autumn 2007, during a High Level Conference on Legal Immigration organised by the Portuguese Presidency. The second and third will be submitted in the autumn of 2008, and the fourth in the course of 2009. 

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