EU to lure foreign 'bright minds' with Blue Card

23rd October 2007, Comments 0 comments

23 October 2007Brussels (dpa) - The EU must attract more professionals from countries like India or China if it wants to compete on the world's economic stage, EU chief Jose Manuel Barroso said Tuesday.

23 October 2007

Brussels (dpa) - The EU must attract more professionals from countries like India or China if it wants to compete on the world's economic stage, EU chief Jose Manuel Barroso said Tuesday.

"We are not good enough at attracting highly skilled people. Nor are we young or numerous enough to keep the wheels of our societies and economies turning on our own," said the president of the bloc's executive, the Commission, in presenting plans designed to lure skilled immigrants away from the United States, Canada and Australia.

One such proposal involves granting third-country professionals who agree to relocate to the EU similar benefits to those currently enjoyed by their European colleagues.

These include better working conditions, comparable health and safety at the workplace, various tax benefits and the chance to build up a decent pension by adding up payments made in various EU member states.

Workers who satisfy certain conditions would be granted a so- called "EU Blue Card" - similar to the US' Green Card - valid for up to two years, renewable, and applicable in all 27 member states.

The proposals would also make it easier for foreign professionals to be reunited with their families.

"The proposed directive aims at supporting member states' and EU companies' efforts to fill gaps in their labour market that cannot be filled by highly qualified EU nationals," a Commission text read.

"In a market where there is increasing international competition for these workers, Europe can only succeed in attracting 'the best and the brightest' if it speaks with one voice," the document by the EU executive said.

Current rules for granting residence and work permits vary widely across the EU. While it normally takes just 68 days to process an application for a permit in Finland, a similar procedure can take up to six months in the Netherlands or Lithuania.

Meanwhile, demand for highly-skilled workers has been growing on average at an annual rate of 3 per cent in the EU. But the complex bureaucracy currently in place in most member states means many businesses are unable to fill key positions.

According to Commission data, non-EU professionals now make up 1.72 per cent of the bloc's total employment population. The rate is almost twice as high in the US, three times higher in non-EU member Switzerland and nearly six times higher in Australia.

To qualify for a Blue Card, applicants would have to have been offered a valid work contract, they must have professional qualifications and their salary should be at least three times higher than the country of residence's minimum wage.

"Our economies and the internal market are dependent on a skilled and mobile workforce," Barroso said. "With the EU Blue Card we send a clear signal: highly skilled people from all over the world are welcome in the European Union," he added.

The proposals, drafted by Commission vice-president Franco Frattini, also include special provisions for young professionals and seek to limit the extent to which companies can recruit skilled workers from developing countries that are suffering from the so- called "brain drain."

Their approval by national governments is by no means taken for granted. The plans are expected to face a particularly rough ride in member states such as Germany or Austria, observers said.


Subject: German news

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