On Wednesday, European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, together with EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, presented new proposals for ambitious legal migration. They include legislative, operational and policy initiatives, while also addressing specific measures to facilitate the labour market integration of people fleeing the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
The point in time – in the middle of the Ukraine crisis with over 5 million having fled the neighbouring EU Member States – certainly shows political courage. However, the Commission’s Migration Pact also includes a pilot project of the proposed EU Talent Pool just for the Ukrainians. An online platform will help people from Ukraine to connect with employers from all over the European Union who are seeking workers.
According to Johansson and Schinas, the plan is to attract more migrant workers to the EU according to uniform European rules – through a reform of the right of residence as well as through partnerships with third countries. As Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas has a specific area of responsibility. In his opinion, this way of European life underlines the importance of dealing openly with issues of migration, not only for philanthropic but also for very pragmatic reasons: Europe pressingly needs new workers.
First of all, the Commission is proposing the reform of two existing legislations. The first reform relates to the directive on a combined residence and work permit, commonly known as the single permit directive. The directive is intended to oblige Member States to also accept applications from third countries. The second change concerns the long-term resident legislation. It will grant migrants special rights after five consecutive years of legal residence in European Union. The Commission, however, aims to now allow for intra-EU migration and has proposed that these five years can be spent cumulatively across Member States and not just in one.
The second part of the proposed package are so-called “talent partnerships” with third countries. Schinas and Johansson named countries such as Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt that could be considered – while unspoken, it surely is also with the ulterior motive of preventing illegal migration from these countries. “With today’s package we are simplifying the application process for residence and work permits in the EU and strengthening the rights of residents and their family members. I am confident that we have found a solid way to attract people to Europe who can bring their skills to the Europe of today and tomorrow,” said Commissioner Johansson during the press conference on Wednesday.
The reforms unveiled this week accompany the Commission’s stalled September 2020 “Migration Pact”. To date, there has still been no breakthrough on the how to manage migration into the EU, chiefly because countries such as Poland and Hungary continue to oppose accepting any African or Middle Eastern asylum seekers.
With Poland, however, being now one of the key destinations for Ukrainian refugees, the coming months will have to show whether the 27 Member States are willing and able to find a common policy on labour migration.