Revision of the Blue Card directive

In “Promoting our European Way of Life”

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The EU Treaties reserve the final decision on the admission of economic migrants for Member States. However, considering the ageing of the EU population and the skills mismatch in Europe, it is essential to use the potential benefits of legal migration.

In 2009, the EU adopted the so-called Blue Card Directive, which regulates the conditions for entry and residence of highly qualified third-country workers and establishes an EU wide permit for them. The United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark do not apply the Directive. This scheme has proven insufficient and unattractive so far, and is underused. Its use has been curtailed due to restrictive admission conditions and the existence of parallel national schemes.

In his 2014 Political Guidelines, Jean-Claude Juncker announced his intention to promote a new European policy on legal migration to address skills shortages and attract talent, including through a review of the EU Blue Card.

On 7 June 2016, the Commission presented an Action Plan to support Member States in the integration of third-country nationals and their economic and social contribution to the EU, as well as a legislative proposal to reform the Blue Card scheme for highly skilled workers coming to the EU to work. The aim of the revised EU Blue Card scheme is to make it easier and more attractive for highly skilled third-country nationals to come and work in the EU, thus supporting European businesses in attracting qualified and talented people from around the world. Improvements include, inter alia, less stringent admissions criteria, such as lower salary threshold and shorter required length of work contracts, better family reunification conditions, facilitated mobility, and the abolishment of parallel national schemes. 

The 2020 New Pact on Migration and Asylum stresses the importance of completing the unfinished work on the directive and states that the Council and the Parliament should conclude negotiations on the file.

The European Parliament had called for an ‘ambitious and targeted’ revision of the Blue Card Directive in its 2016 resolution on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration. It also drew attention to the needs of refugees in its 2016 resolution on the social inclusion and integration into the labour market of refugees. The proposal for the new Blue Card Directive was referred to the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). The Committee adopted the report and voted to open interinstitutional negotiations on 15 June 2017. In October 2019, the Parliament decided to resume work on the file as part of unfinished business to be carried over. Javier Moreno Sanchez (S&D, Spain) is the rapporteur for the file after Brexit.

The Council working party started working on the Commission proposal in July 2016. The subsequent Council presidencies declared their support for work and progress on the file, which resulted in the Council agreeing on a mandate for negotiations with the Parliament on 26 July 2017. The first trilogue took place on 12 September 2017, and the subsequent meetings were scheduled for 18 October, 27 November and 14 December. The Council achieved no compromise on the inclusion of skills and the recognition of professional experience equivalent to education qualifications, which disappointed the Parliament. On 11 January 2019 the Romanian Presidency presented a compromise package with a view to continuing negotiations on the proposal, but was informed by the Parliament that after discussions at a Shadows' meeting, substantial negotiations on the proposal could not take place on the basis of that package. The Finnish Presidency report on the outcome of discussions on the way forward for EU migration and asylum policy does not mention the revision of the Blue Card Directive, but puts emphasis on making the most of the acquis in place. 

The Committee of the Regions adopted its opinion on legal migration welcoming  the Commission’s proposal and sets out measures for greater involvement at local and regional level. The Economic and Social Committee adopted its opinion (rapporteur: P. Clever, Germany) at its plenary session on 14 December 2016.

The subsidiarity deadline for national parliaments to give their reasoned opinion was 22 September 2016. Two Member States (Bulgaria and the Czech Republic) issued reasoned opinions, expressing concerns over subsidiarity and proportionality of the proposal. National parliaments from five other Member States sent contributions (Austria, Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Romania).

On 10 December 2020, the Commission issued a statement that the Parliament, the Council and the Commission have made progress on the file, agreeing that the reform is crucial for the relaunching of the EU legal migration policy..

A first trilogue took place on 11 February 2021 under the Portuguese Presidency. The Parliament and the Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council reached an interim agreement on Monday 17 May over a revision to the Blue Card Directive. 

Member States, who met in the Committee of Permanent Representatives, discussed and endorsed the agreement on 21 May. On 3 June , the LIBE Committee endorsed the agreement reached with the Council.

Under the newly agreed rules, applicants - who will be able to apply also from within the EU territory - will need to present a work contract or a binding job offer of a minimum of six months. The salary threshold for applicants has been reduced to at least 100 % but not more than 160 % of the average gross annual salary in the member state of employment.

On 3 June 2021, the text was approved by the LIBE Committee. On 15 September 2021, the text was approved by the Parliament during the Plenary session. On 7 October, the Council adopted the act. The final act was signed on 20 October 2021. On 28 October 2021, it was published in the Official Journal. Since 18 November 2023, the Directive must be transposed into national law.

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Further reading:

Author: Marie Lecerf, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

Visit the European Parliament homepage on Migration.

As of 20/04/2024.