European Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and
High-level Conference on Legal Immigration
Migration is a complex issue and has become one of the most visible challenges posed by globalisation.
We have to shift - even if not completely - our traditional way of thinking of migration as a world of loss and sorrow. Let us be realistic in a visionary way. Let us try to use, a new expression: EU mobility. We have to look at immigration as an enrichment and as a inescapable phenomenon of today's world not as a threat. We should take more account of what statistics tell us: 85% of unskilled labour goes to the EU and only 5% to the USA, whereas 55% of SKILLED labour goes to the USA and only 5% to the EU. We have to reverse these figures with a new vision, and that calls for new tools. And we are starting to have those new tools.
Europe has to compete against Australia, Canada, the USA and the rising powers in Asia. Immigration is and will remain a far too (negatively) loaded term, in part because the dark side of the phenomenon is still alive.
But we can't make progress only on the economic dimension of this new mobility. A strong European identity, based on full respect for universal principles and fundamental rights, can make a significant contribution to achieving the goals set out in the new Lisbon agenda. Combining enhanced mobility within Europe with a strong integration strategy can help make Europe successful in today's world.
In the past three years, EU leaders have recognised the importance of concerted action in this field. The Global Approach to Migration was adopted by the European Council in December 2005 and reaffirmed by last December EU Council. Despite these great achievements, much still remains to be done to strengthen this comprehensive approach which integrates both the internal and external policies of the EU and covers not only legislation but also practical cooperation.
On the one hand, we need to consolidate the development of the EU's migration acquis (notably monitor correct implementation and application of the existing Directives and financial instruments). On the other hand, this process will include deepening our policies, inter alia by means of new legislative proposals and new concepts that will strengthen implementation of existing policies on legal migration, illegal immigration, integration and cooperation with third countries.
If managed well, immigration is one area where our citizens will clearly see the added value of a European approach. Such an approach should help the EU to address, and to a certain extend reduce, unwanted phenomena such as unregulated migration and trafficking in human beings, while ensuring that Europe can welcome the migrants its economy needs and its society is capable and willing to receive.
Let me focus on some key aspects of particular importance in the next years ahead:
In spite of the recent enlargement, which has pushed the EU's total population up to some 490 million, the number of people living in the EU is set to decline in the next few decades. By 2050 a third of them will be over 65 years of age. Labour and skills shortages are already noticeable in a number of sectors and they will tend to increase. Eurostat's long-term demographic projections indicate that the total population is expected to decline by 2025 and the working age population by 2011.
Although these are forecasts and average figures, and should therefore be considered with some caution, some Member States (Germany, Hungary, Italy and Latvia) are already experiencing a decline in their working age population, while others will later (e.g. Ireland from 2035). The challenge posed by an ageing population – and its consequences on the national labour markets – will therefore not affect every Member State at the same time and on the same scale, but is nevertheless a common trend. And it is a challenge not to be underestimated.
Today our job market is mainly led by technology and information. This means that the future structure of Europe's job market will depend on technological changes, which tend to be swift, extensive and hard to predict. Many jobs, however, are no longer available in Europe's job market. For example, several European manufacturers have outsourced work or shifted to more automation. Other manufacturers have decided to close down or scaled back their operations. The same holds true for electronic equipment. In political terms, this means that Europe's role is to keep a close eye on evolving job market and examine its absorption capacity in terms of new jobs for EU citizens and newcomers.
Solutions to compensate for the negative impact of demographic ageing on the labour market can be found in the context of the Lisbon strategy. Immigration has been identified as one of them, but is not on its own “the” solution. Moreover, when addressing this problem, the EU has to give priority to using its existing human resources (EU nationals and third-country nationals already on EU territory) and achieving the Lisbon objectives. That is why European Union should support families and so encourage demographic increase in Member States.
Countries with rapid economic growth in recent years, such as Spain and Ireland, have clearly benefited from the inflow of skilled workers from both within and outside the EU. Across the EU all skills levels are required. The challenge is to attract the workers needed to fill specific gaps. Working together makes the EU stronger not just when dealing with problems such as illegal migration and border management, but also in seizing the opportunities which migrants embody. Common action at EU level also gives Member States a stronger voice on the international stage, bearing in mind that there is competition between different countries and regions of the world for skilled migrants, especially with high qualifications.
In its Policy Plan on Legal Migration published in December 2005 on the basis of the Hague Programme, the Commission put forward realistic proposals for a common policy in this field, covering rules on certain categories of immigrants, information and integration programmes aimed specifically at labour migrants, plus measures to encourage circular migration and foster vocational and language training in their countries of origin.
● The new Centre for Migration Management in Bamako (Mali). In the next few days, the Commission will approve a € 10 million project to set up a new Centre for Migration Management in Bamako (Mali). This new Centre aims to: (1) improve knowledge of migration patterns; (2) welcome and provide information, guidance and support for potential and returning migrants; (3) provide information on the legal aspects of migration and raise the awareness of the population to prevent clandestine migration; (4) foster efficient management of the human, financial and technical value of Malians abroad; and (5) monitor the flows of remittances. These proposals fully respect the division of powers with Member States which will remain solely responsible for the actual numbers of labour migrants admitted onto their territories.
On 23 October I will put forward the first two legislative proposals: a general Framework Directive on the basic socio-economic rights of all third-country workers and a Directive on the admission of highly skilled migrants.
In 2008 proposals for Directives on the admission of seasonal workers, remunerated trainees and intra-corporate transferees will follow.
Let me take this opportunity to anticipate a few words already on the two proposals.
The aim of the proposal for a Directive on the admission of highly skilled migrants is therefore to put forward more attractive entry and residence conditions for highly skilled migrant workers to come to Europe. Given that labour market needs differ from Member State to Member State, the common system will not be too rigid but will combine a degree of harmonisation with clear flexibility that could be described as follows:
Ø A fast-track procedure for the admission of highly qualified third-country workers based on common criteria: work contract, professional qualifications and a salary level clearly above existing minimum wages at national level.
Ø This should also apply to third-country nationals already legally resident in a Member State and fulfilling the criteria (students, etc);
Ø A specific scheme for "young professionals" should be built in;
Ø Workers admitted under these schemes would be issued with a special residence permit allowing them to work, called the " Blue EU Labour Card": this would entitle them to a series of rights;
Ø Access to the labour market in the first Member State of destination should be limited to an initial period of two years, renewable thereafter;
Ø Holders of an "Blue EU Labour Card" could move to a second Member State for work under certain conditions and after two or three years of legal residence in the first Member State.
Ø In order not to penalise potentially mobile highly skilled migrants, they should be allowed to add up periods of residence in different Member States so that they can obtain long-term EC residence status faster.
As concerns brain drain, different studies show that emigration of highly skilled workers can also have a positive impact on their countries of origin, in particular by easing pressures on their local labour market or in the form of remittances and return skilled migration. There are however some geographical areas and certain occupations, especially in Africa, where we face serious concerns. The proposal will therefore promote ethical recruitment standards to limit – if not ban – active recruitment policies in developing countries suffering from serious brain drain.
The second proposal, the general Framework Directive will aim at (1) simplifying procedures for admission of third-country workers and (2) granting a common set of rights to all third-country workers already admitted and legally working in a Member State. This objective was first expressed (and not yet achieved) in the 1999 Tampere conclusions which state that the EU should ensure fair treatment of third-country nationals residing lawfully on the territory of the Member States by granting them rights and obligations comparable to those of EU citizens.
The two aspects of the proposal are closely interlinked: The first part introduces a single application procedure for third-country nationals who wish to stay in a Member State to work. Such a procedure should be a one-stop-shop from the migrant's perspective and, if granted, the permit to stay and work should be issued in a single act (the single permit). As for the format of this single document, it should be based on the existing uniform format for EU residence permits for third-country nationals, as laid down in Regulation 1030/2002.
The second part of the proposal deals with the question of which minimum work-related rights legally staying and working third-country nationals should enjoy. The preparatory work has produced clear evidence that there is a "rights gap" between Member EC citizens and third-country workers. So granting them a common set of rights would narrow this gap in accordance with the Tampere objective. As this proposal is on migrant workers, these rights should primarily be work-related such as working conditions, social security rights on the basis of contributions paid or recognition of qualifications. These rights will not be defined by the Directive but will take the form of equal treatment, by defining areas where equal treatment with nationals should apply. Member States will remain free to maintain or propose more favourable rights.
Legal immigration is only part of the story. To be comprehensive we must also tackle illegal immigration. These are two sides of the same coin. Tightening up controls at the external borders of the EU has received a lot of attention as a result of enlargement, security issues and increasing migratory pressures. Another important aspect of fighting illegal immigration in the EU is preventing illegal employment of immigrants. Work "on the black market" distorts competition and condemns immigrants to exploitation. Many illegal migrants are still able to find work in the hidden economy. In May this year I therefore put forward an EC Directive designed to harmonise sanctions against employers who offer work to illegally residing third-country nationals. It cannot be emphasised often enough that, unless effective measures are taken to combat illegal immigration, the credibility of the legal immigration policy we are working together to shape will be irreparably undermined.
Migrants are a crucial part of the EU’s competitiveness strategy, but it will not be possible to realise their full potential unless they are given opportunities to integrate into the host society and economy. Integrating legally residing immigrants is therefore a top priority and a key element of the EU's comprehensive immigration policy.
The dark side of the "old" migration strategy includes the fact of integration problems, often taking the form of the deliberate denial of Europe's founding values and principles. Until a few years ago, our chosen multicultural approach allowed some cultural and religious groups to pursue an aggressive strategy against our values. The targets of this ill-conceived "attack" were individual rights, equality of gender, respect for women and monogamy.
We have to combat this dangerous attitude, which can destroy the fabric of our societies, and we have to work hard to build up and pursue a positive integration approach. All too often we neglect to strengthen our fundamental roots, the principles we inherited from our Founding Fathers: we cannot simply overlook the mark of fundamental rights on our societies. For a long time we unfortunately took this important heritage for granted. Today we have to share our "background" with all manner of newcomers. It is important to stress this point: we have to think of the migration-mobility as involving people who are highly motivated and strongly desire to be part of the societies they live in. That is precisely why I continue to say that there is no migration without integration. I am aware that it is not an easy task. But we have to be able to rise to new challenges - this much we owe it to future generations and to the new Europe we are building together. Children, with their open minds, can easily adapt to different countries, different schools, different friends. Children, who know how to live in this complex world, can "lead" societies to make this discovery.
Two days ago – with this conference in mind – the Commission published the 3rd Annual Report on Migration and Integration which I put forward together with Commissioner Vladimir Špidla. Let me briefly share some of the most important findings with you.
The number of third-country nationals residing in the EU in January 2006 was 18.5 million, i.e. almost 4% of the total EU population. Immigration continues to be the main ingredient in EU demographic growth and positive net migration is reported in most Member States.
One important part of the report is the information about implementation of the EU framework for integration of third-country nationals, where we explain all the activities taken so far and announce future actions, including the integration website to be launched in 2008 and the European Integration Platform which we will set up in co-operation with the Economic and Social Committee to give civil society a voice.
We also report on how mainstreaming integration has become an integral part of policy-making, implementation and financing across a wide range of EU policies, for example on employment, entrepreneurship, intercultural dialogue, fundamental rights, non-discrimination and equal opportunities, social inclusion and social protection policies, urban policies, health and education.
One interesting dimension of the report is an extensive overview of national integration policies, accompanied by a detailed Summary Report on Integration Policies in EU-27, drawn up with the co-operation of the National Contact Points, where we describe trends and give detailed examples from several countries on implementation of all 11 Common Basic Principles on Integration.
Structural initiatives targeting the host population to reinforce its capacity to adjust to diversity are still underrepresented in national strategies. In many Member States we are far from implementing the June Council's conclusions on strengthening integration policies in the EU by promoting unity in diversity.
The EU and third countries have a common interest in managing migration in close partnership. Remittances from migrants are in many countries the way out of poverty. In some areas of Senegal, remittances make up 90% of the disposable income of families. In Ghana remittances accounted for 13% of GDP in 2006 and in Mali 6%. Remittances are the tangible sign that migrants intend to improve the living standards of their families and relatives and that they care for their countries of origin.
Trade, at the heart of the EU's development strategy, is also essential to advance economic growth. The EU provides the world's most open market for the poorest countries and is their largest trading partner. The EU's declining birth rate and rising living standards contrast sharply with those of developing countries, especially in Africa. In 2008, I intend to put forward a Communication examining the nexus between trade and migration.
The EU's Global Approach to Migration links different policy areas, providing an overarching structure to manage migration and address its root causes. This helps maximise the benefits for the country of origin, the country of destination and the migrants themselves, their families and their communities. The EU has, in particular, brought together migration and development policy and played a pioneering role internationally with its global approach to migration management.
Africa and the Mediterranean were the first priorities. Now countries to the east of the EU have been included in this policy. The measures taken cover a wide range. We need to work much more closely with third countries and we are developing a number of new tools to do this:
- We will assist countries that are interested in putting together detailed Migration Profiles so as to have the relevant information on which to base practical measures.
- We will build Cooperation Platforms bringing together third countries, EU Member States and international organisations to ensure effective migration management.
- And we will create Migration Support Teams consisting of experts from EU Member States to provide assistance to third countries that ask for it.
In May this year I put forward new proposals to develop cooperation with third countries: mobility partnerships and ways in which circular migration can be encouraged.
The main idea of mobility partnerships is that we would work together on tackling illegal migration while citizens from these countries concerned would benefit from greater opportunities for getting legal jobs in European Union. Mobility partnerships could offer a way of implementing a proposal I made at a Conference in Tripoli last year, which would enable the Commission to negotiate directly with third countries the national quotas set by Member States on the basis of their labour market needs.
The second proposal I put forward in May concerns circular migration, which is widely believed to work to the benefit of both countries of origin (by fostering transfers of skills and other resources of returning migrants) and countries of destination (by helping to meet the needs of labour markets across a broad range of skill levels). But this is a relatively new concept, which goes beyond traditional temporary migration, and it raises a number of issues. For this reason, I launched a debate on the opportunities and challenges of circular migration with all the relevant stakeholders. This should allow the Council to draw conclusions by the end of the Portuguese Presidency.
In conclusion, our objective should clearly be to minimise the negative effects of migration and maximise the benefits for all concerned - the EU and its citizens, the countries from which migrants come and the migrants themselves.
In 2006 Europe and Africa agreed to shared migration goals. Consequently, Europe and Africa should now start to turn these major political commitments into reality, by favouring the role of diasporas, streamlining the procedures for sending remittances back to the countries of origin and increasing the appeal of circular migration. Together they should devise and enact policies which will support these programmes. One way of doing so would be to set up a permanent coordination mechanism to take the common migration agenda forward.
A long-term commitment from all sides will therefore be required. We must always bear in mind that there is no alternative to working together, since no single Member State can cope with this challenge successfully on its own.