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Brussels, 23 October 2007

Making Europe more attractive to highly skilled migrants and increasing the protection of lawfully residing and working migrants.

Today the Commission adopted two legislative proposals in the area of economic migration. The first proposal aims at establishing a Framework Directive for the purpose of admission of highly qualified migrants to the EU, creating the EU Blue Card. The second proposal is a Directive establishing a single application procedure for a single residence and work permit and a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in a Member State.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso underlined: "Labour migration into Europe boosts our competitiveness and therefore our economic growth. It also helps tackle demographic problems resulting from our ageing population. This is particularly the case for highly skilled labour. With today's proposal for an EU Blue Card we send a clear signal: highly skilled migrants are welcome in the EU! We are also proposing is to give a clear set of rights to all third country nationals who legally reside in the EU. This will protect EU citizens from unfair competition in the labour market and promote the integration of migrants into our societies."

Vice-President Franco Frattini, the Commissioner responsible for Freedom, Security and Justice, stated that “Europe's ability to attract highly skilled migrants is a measure of its international strength. We want Europe to become at least as attractive as favourite migration destinations such as Australia, Canada and the USA. We have to make highly skilled workers change their perception of Europe's labour market governed as they are by inconsistent admission procedures. Failing this, Europe will continue to receive low-skilled and medium-skilled migrants only. A new vision and new tools are indispensable for reversing this trend. We will also minimise the risk of brain drain from developing countries. This is what we are proposing today.” He went on to add that "the second proposal ensures that ALL migrants who come to reside and work legally in the EU should enjoy basic, work-related socio-economic rights. There can be no balanced and fair labour migration policy unless Europe is ready and willing to defend the most vulnerable third-country workers ".

Admission of highly skilled immigrants

The proposal for a Directive on the admission of highly skilled immigrants seeks to establish more attractive entry and residence conditions for third-country nationals to take up highly qualified employment in EU Member States – "EU Blue Card".

The proposal does not create the right of admission. The scheme is entirely demand-driven, fully respectful of the principle of Community preference and Member States' jurisdiction to decide on the numbers of persons admitted. Since labour market needs differ from Member State to Member State, the proposed common system is flexible and centred around a number of key points. For example, it introduces a fast-track procedure, based on common criteria. When a third-country national is admitted under this scheme, he will receive a special residence and work permit, called the "EU Blue Card", entitling him/her to a series of socio-economic rights and favourable conditions for family reunification. Facilitated access to the labour market is also provided for.

In a bid to avoid negative brain drain effects in developing countries, especially in Africa, the proposal advocates ethical recruitment standards to limit – if not ban – active recruitments by Member States in developing countries already suffering from serious brain drain, and contains measures to facilitate circular migration.

Single application procedure/single permit and common set of rights

The second proposal is horizontal in nature, and seeks to simplify procedures for all potential immigrants applying to reside and work in a Member State. Furthermore, it aims to ensure a common set of rights to all third-country workers already admitted and legally working in a Member State, comparable to those of EU citizens. It does not harmonise admission conditions for labour immigrants, which will remain in the hands of the Member States.

The proposal therefore provides for a "one-stop-shop" system for the applicants. It introduces a single application procedure, which aims to simplify and accelerate the procedure both for the employer and for the immigrant as well to introduce certain safeguards (access to information on the documents needed for an application, obligation to provide reasons for rejection and to take a decision on the application within 90 days). Once admitted, the immigrant will receive a "single permit", which will entitle him/her to stay and work for the period granted: in practical terms, information on access to the labour market will be on the residence permit.

Acknowledging the contribution made by the legal immigrant workers to the EU's economy and to help them integrate more convincingly, the proposal seeks to guarantee basic socio-economic rights on an equal footing with Member State's own nationals, in particular as regards working conditions and pay, education, trade union's rights and social security.

For further information on the need for labour migration see related MEMO 422 and 423 (EU Blue Card)

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