By Martin Banks - 23rd October 2007
MEPs have given a mixed response to new plans aimed at attracting thousands of “highly skilled” migrants to the EU.
Under the commission’s proposals, a single European work visa, to be known as a Blue Card, will be introduced alongside a global advertising campaign.
The visas, coloured blue to match the EU flag, are intended to rival the American Green Card by offering permanent residency anywhere in Europe after five years’ work.
The card will be targeted at qualified migrants who will be able to bring their families with them after a 90-day application period as part of a programme to meet an estimated short-fall of 20 million skilled and non-skilled workers by 2030.
Reacting to the move, ALDE group leader Graham Watson said, “Common European standards and entry criteria on the type of skilled labour and conditions of entry will go a long way to reducing some of the bureaucratic hurdles that get in the way of attracting Wall Street bankers or Indian IT consultants to working in EU countries as they currently face 27 different regimes.
"Our workforce will be facing a shortfall by 2030 similar in size to the entire population of Romania so action is necessary now. However we need to maintain an open mind to labour migration.”
His comments were largely echoed by parliament’s co-rapporteur on immigration matters, French deputy Jean-Marie Cavada, who said, “Parliament has always considered that the phenomenon of migration is complex, and that the struggle against illegal immigration cannot be dissociated from an active policy on legal migration.
“So these proposals open the way to a legitimate and expected evolution which keeps pace with the progress provided for by the Lisbon Treaty."
UK Green and immigration spokesperson Jean Lambert also greeted the move, commenting, "This is a welcome start as regards recognising that the EU will benefit from an increase in legal migration.
"This blue card is supposed to make the EU more attractive as a destination in the global talent war".
But UK MEP Philip Bradbourn, Conservative spokesman on justice and home affairs, was critical, saying, “This is the wrong answer to the wrong question.
“What we should be addressing is the wave of illegal migration into the EU before we tackle skills shortages.
"The proposal as it stands will open a Pandora's box to those who seek to migrate to the EU without any of the controls necessary to ensure that those who employ illegal migrants are tackled and those illegal migrants who are caught are sent back to their country of origin.
“The proposal will encourage more people to undertake hazardous journeys from all corners of the world in the hope that they will get a work permit which once issued will give them free range to move across the whole of Europe.