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An EU approach to economic immigration?

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Friday, 07 October 2005

An EU approach to economic immigration?

Immigrants contribute to the prosperity of Member States, they have a beneficial effect on the EU labour market and they should be granted similar rights to EU citizens, the Civil Liberties Committee said on Wednesday in a hotly contested report aimed at defining for the first time an EU strategy on economic migration. The committee heavily amended the original text by Ewa Klamt (EPP-ED, DE) in an effort to place more emphasis on the integration of legal immigrants.
Should the EU adopt a Green Card system to regulate the flow of immigrants from outside Europe? Would this help to solve the economic problems caused by Europe's ageing population? Answering these and other questions was the purpose of Ms Klamt's own-initiative report, which was drafted in response to a Commission green paper on economic migration. In its report as adopted, the committee highlighted "the need to adopt a common immigration policy in order to end the exploitation of (illegal) workers" and said that "economic migration is a positive human phenomenon". Yet MEPs emphasised that this was only "part of the solution" to Europe's demographic problems and economic difficulties. Problems within the EU labour market should also be tackled by stimulating innovation and encouraging the employment of older workers.

Integration of migrants
MEPs called on Member States to promote the integration of economic migrants residing legally in Europe by granting them the same rights as EU citizens, including the right to vote in local and European Parliament elections for those who have been resident in the EU for at least five years.
In a controversial amendment supported by Socialist, Liberal and Green members, the Civil Liberties Committee voted for a European Green Card system as being a good solution to manage legal economic migration. This would create a single administrative procedure for issuing an employment and residence permit for an economic migrant. However, the admission of a third country national for economic reasons should in principle be linked to the existence of a specific job, MEPs added.
Unable to reach a consensus, MEPs finally decided not to comment on the Commission's suggestion that priority be given to citizens from all Member States before looking for non-EU nationals to fill any job vacancy (the principle of "Community preference"). Rapporteur Ewa Klamt had backed this idea in her draft report. The paragraph in her report stipulating that economic migration measures should not be used until EU citizens from new Member States are guaranteed the right to freedom of movement was deleted from the final text.

Migration and development
ECDP attached paper examines the role of migration in economic, social and political development in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP). Following the inclusion of a migration clause (article 13) in the political dimensions chapter of the Cotonou Agreement, migration issues have come onto the EU's development agenda. However, there has been debate as to whether migration is a "development issue" and if it should be addressed through development cooperation.