EU 'blue card' to tempt skilled

23 Oct 2007 • by Natalie Aster

The European Commission is set to unveil a Blue Card for skilled immigrants, based on the US Green Card, reported The BBC.

The card would allow suitably qualified people and their families to live and work within the EU.

The EU says it needs 20 million skilled immigrants over the next 20 years, and is very short of expertise in engineering and computer technology.

Correspondents say another aim of the proposal is to deter the best brains from emigrating to the US to find work.

The BBC's Mark Mardell in Brussels says the plan is controversial and some countries are sure to oppose it.

Critics also fear that Europe's attempt to take the best and leave the rest will only encourage a brain-drain from poorer nations.

The UK, Ireland and Denmark could opt out, but the other EU members will have to take part.

UK ministers say officially they are studying it, but our correspondent says they are not keen on the idea, preferring to develop a points system.

Under the proposals, due to be unveiled on Tuesday afternoon, a Blue Card would enable holders and their families to live, work and travel within the EU.

To be eligible for the card, new immigrants would need to show a recognised diploma, have at least three years professional experience and the offer of a job which could not be filled by an EU citizen.

"To maintain and improve economic growth in the EU, it is essential for Europe to become a magnet for the highly skilled," the European Commission said in a statement.

"...To do so, the EU must present a united front, rather than emphasise the different immigration policies of each member state."

The plan will need the approval of all member states to come into force.

Some politicians in the Netherlands and Germany are hostile and the Austrian government has condemned the plan as "a centralisation too far".

There is a real tension between politicians all over Europe, who know their voters are worried about immigration, and businesses which say they will not be able to function without the skills of graduates from India and China, our correspondent says.