EU parliament backs blue card scheme
21 November 2008
STRASBOURG – The European Parliament on Thursday backed a "blue card" scheme for skilled immigrant workers, while stressing it should be open only to the most qualified applicants.
In a consultative report adopted thanks to backing from the biggest parliamentary blocs – the socialists and the conservatives – the euro deputies backed the mooted scheme.
The inspiration for the programme comes from the US green card system, which gives immigrants long-term resident status.
However, members of the parliament called for the salary bar to be set higher than foreseen by the 27 EU member states.
The MEPs called for EU interior ministers, who will consider the matter next week, to insist that ‘blue card’ candidates should have a job offer in Europe which pays at least 1.7 times the national average wage in the country they are applying to work in.
That would create a pay level of at least EUR 4,300 pre-tax in France but only EUR 370 in Bulgaria.
The parliamentary proposal is significantly higher than the 1.5 times salary level agreed by EU ambassadors in October.
The member states, though not the parliament, have also agreed on some dispensations for sectors short of workers.
With the consultative vote out of the way, the path is now clear for the creation of the European blue card scheme, a fact welcomed by French socialist EU deputy Roselyne Lefrancois, who stressed that only 1.2 percent of highly qualified foreign workers chose the EU.
"The vast majority opt for the United States or Canada," she said.
However Green MEP Helene Flautre said the EU, with its various national employment regulations was in no position to ape or compete with the US and Canadian schemes.
British Liberal Graham Watson was very critical at the way the scheme has evolved.
"All’s not well that starts well," he opined.
"What began as pioneering legislation to address legal migration at the EU level ended up a messy, mediocre compromise.
"A blue card wrapped in red tape is hardly a welcome gift. Europe can do better than this."
Greek Communist Athanassios Pafilis accused the EU of seeking a "cheap labour force for EU capitalism to increase profits" which would be "tantamount to a brain drain from countries of origin."
The "blue card," which takes its name from the main colour of the EU flag, would entitle highly qualified third country nationals to a series of rights in any of the 27 EU nations.
A fast-track system would be set up to allow such workers to enter the bloc
– they could stay for an initial period of two years which would be renewable
– and obtain longer-term residence status more quickly.
Later, they would be able to work in a second member state under certain conditions.
The commission, the EU’s executive body, is aware that it is entering a sensitive area of national policy, with many member states experiencing a surge in immigration from both within and outside the Union.
[AFP / Expatica]