Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Monday, March 7, 2011

European Blue Card

The EU works in ways that are mysterious even to Europeans.


I took a quick poll of my friends (Brits, French...) and not one of them knew that the EU has an initiative to create the equivalent of a United States Green Card for Europe.

The implementation is still being worked out with the member countries but the idea is to make the EU labour market more attractive to the highly-skilled professional worker and to address serious labour shortages in some sectors.  According to one article I read Germany alone has 36,000 Engineering and IT positions that they cannot fill domestically or with workers from other EU states (only 1% of EU workers accept positions in another member state).

This proposal would cover "any third country national applying to be admitted in an EU
Member States to fill a job requiring high professional qualifications (engineers, IT professionals, medical professionals, etc.), including university students having completed their undergraduate studies."

You can read more about the original proposal in the European Commission's Citizen's Summary here.

All this began back in 2007.  The EU is not only mysterious but it is slow.  They were hoping to start implementing it in 2011.  Three countries have already opted out:  the UK, Ireland and Denmark.  The other States have, in theory, agreed (more or less) with a lot of grumbling and much criticism.  How and when it will be implemented on the national level is still a big question.  To my knowledge, no EU state is currently accepting Blue Card applications.  The initiative appears to be stalled.

If you'd like to follow the debate and the progress (or lack thereof), there is an excellent site called European Blue Card.

Immigration is a very touchy subject in Europe and it does not surprise me that so few EU citizens seem to be aware of what the EU is up to.  Given some of the recent anti-immigration rhetoric in the UK and Germany I can certainly understand why local politicians would want to keep it quiet.  However, the EU does have a real problem - it is not competitive in the global labour market.  Franco Frattini, the former EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, said that less than 5% of immigrants to the EU are highly-skilled professionals compared to 55% of immigrants to the U.S.  In the race for talent, the EU loses.  The European Blue Card is, in my view, a great idea and I hope this year that the EU member states wake up, smell the coffee and vote to implement.

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