European "blue card" to solve problem of aging population?

Immigration - 26-09-2007 - 13:57
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Moreno Sanchez and Lilli Gruber - the rapporteurs on EU immigration

Immigrants may hold the answer

Europe is facing a demographic crisis. Forecasts show that by 2050 two workers will have to support one retired person, compared with four workers now. Could immigration be the answer? One suggestion is a "European blue card system" - like the US green card - for skilled third country workers. Two MEPs, dealing with immigration, tell us what they think.

Commission Vice-President Franco Frattini says the EU must learn to compete with the US, which attracts most of the mobile skilled labour in the world. He therefore proposes the "blue card", a specialised residence permit for skilled third-country workers, which would ensure equal treatment at work. It would allow them to live and work in a given EU member state for an initial, renewable, period of two years, after which they could work in another EU country. "We have to look at immigration as an enrichment and as an inescapable phenomenon of today's world not as a threat".
Most skilled migrants go to US
The aim is to tackle Europe's looming demographic crisis by attracting some 20 million extra workers from abroad. "The challenge is to attract the workers needed to fill specific gaps," said Frattini. He said that 85% of unskilled labour goes to EU and 5% to the US, whereas 55% of skilled labour goes to the US and only 5% to the EU.
Italian Socialist Lilli Gruber and Spanish Socialist Javier Moreno Sanchez are reporting to the House on legal and illegal immigration respectively, so we asked their opinion on a European blue card system. 
"A step in the right direction"
"This is a first step in the right direction - even if it’s timid." said Ms Gruber. "Apart from the 'préférence communautaire' applied in large sectors of our economic policies, there’s no question that a real demand exists for specific skills, varying from one country to another, which can't be met inside the EU. In those cases, it’s fair to open our doors."
However, she also said care must be taken "not to drain away the reservoir of skills that countries need, without offering anything in exchange. To fight illegal immigration - apart from its criminal phenomena - we need to open and define legal ways to enter the EU, but also increase our forces to stimulate the growing democracy and economy of those countries."
Mr Moreno Sanchez supports "measures that favour legal channels of immigration to the EU, fundamental to curb clandestine immigration and to fight against networks of human trafficking." He also stresses the importance of "the external dimension of a European migration policy."
"This is only an initial step, focused on qualified workers and it will be necessary to continue to work on the establishment of a common status for the rest of immigrant workers, whom we need as much from the demographic point of view as from the economic one", he added.
REF.: 20070921STO10548