28/11/2008

The Blue card

Press review – week from November 24 to 28, 2008

If the Financial Times and the European Union press stressed the vote last Thursday at the EU parliament of the initiative of the commission on the « blue card » sort of European « green card », many national newspapers, which had explained the initiative in 2007 and early 2008 (Le Figaro, Le Monde, The Guardian, Il Corriere della sera), have not talked this week of the European initiative on immigration. If this silence is not due to a lack of interest for such an issue from the Member States, the limited visibility of the project, whose impact remains unclear in the eyes of citizens and politicians has to be highlighted. Indeed, if the card appears to be a basic framework for a common migration policy, many core elements remain the responsibility of States.

An article posted on the site Euractiv on November 6th, relating the impressions left to parliament after the adoption by MEPs of the initiative of the European Commission on the immigration of highly skilled workers, known as « blue card« .
The protractor Ewa Klamt Parliament (EPP-ED, Germany) considers this as a step in the right direction, highlighting the example of his country which lacks 95 000 engineers with an education system unable to train more than 20 000.
According to the British MP Jean Lambert (Greens), measures requiring immigrant workers to earn 1.7 times the average wage added more restrictions on an already limited initiative. Some Member States and leftist parties had supported a more balanced policy including a minimum wage equivalent to 1.3 times the national average. According to them, higher bonds, supported by Germany, could actually cancel the benefits of the system.

The criticism and doubts about the initiative were not something new: a press release from the European Parliament on June 26th 2008 had already presented the questions of deputies and political actors on the issue of the blue card. Sergio Carrera, the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) had highlighted the « major differences between Member States on minimum wage » making the work of harmonization « particularly difficult ». He also doubted that the « Blue Card » can guarantee equal treatment irrespective of the Member State, the latter keeping the possibility of introducing more favourable conditions than those provided by the directive. The European Trade Union Confederation would have preferred a horizontal directive rather than a sectorial one. In addition, it considered as « difficult to explain that we are going to appeal to immigration while some countries have problems of unemployment. »
On the side of parliament, Wolfgang Kreissl-Dörfler (PES, DE) felt that the problem of shortage of workers in some industries is also in the education systems of the Union: « why do not some courses attract the students? We have to look at our educational system. Our industries will not find those they need only drawing in third countries, had he said, also expressing concerns about brain drains that could cause the « Blue Card ».
For Jeanine Hennis Plasschaert (ALDE, NL) « that immigration is not a panacea and it is not the only solution to the problem of population aging. »

This week, MEPs have made their voices heard said on November 20th a press release of theEuropean Parliament. Indeed, the EU Parliament adopted on Thursday, by 388 votes to 56 votes against and 124 abstentions, the advisory report by Ewa Klamt (EPP-ED, DE) defines the characteristics that must meet the future holder of the card. He should have found employment in the EU, have at least five years experience in the sector or a university degree recognized by the State. His contract should guarantee him an income of at least 1.7 times the average gross salary of the Member State of residence, said the deputies, adding that the wage should not be lower than a comparable worker in the host country.
MEPs want to impose a six months period, against three in the Commission proposal, as the period granted to the holder for finding work in case of loss of his job.
MEPs believed that Member States should decide how many blue cards they wish to give each year. According to them, the card should not be considered a right for the migrant and can be denied to a candidate even if he fulfils the required criteria. National authorities must also be able to refuse host to holders of a card assigned by another Member State, to prefer a national solution or community.

However, according to the Migration Information Source, as a tool of harmonization, the card has been overestimated both by those who fear the consolidation of EU powers and those who are in favour of a European capability concerning the attraction of highly skilled workers.