On 7 March 2017 the European Movement International organised a parliamentary debate on the revision of the EU Blue Card Directive. As part of a broader series of events to discuss the ‘European Responses to Migration’, this event aimed to continue the debate on common European solutions to address migration, to critically assess current European responses and to provide input for further action. The next event in the series will take place in Berlin on 24 April 2017.

For more background information, please take a look at the European Movement policy position on Migration and the Refugee crisis.

Petros Fassoulas, Secretary General at the European Movement International, opened the debate with a few words of welcome. Brando Benifei MEP representing the S&D group as shadow rapporteur in the EMPL committee on the EU Blue Card file, was first to give his thoughts on the Revision of the Directive. He outlined the changes made to the EU Blue Card scheme in the Commission´s proposal which include, inter alia, less stringent admission criteria such as lower salary thresholds and shorter length of work contracts, better family reunification conditions, facilitated mobility, and the abolition of parallel national schemes. Benifei pointed out that while the revised Directive should be more flexible and accessible in order to increase mobility, it should not go too far so as to cause disturbances in the labour market. To that end, Benifei proposed to strengthen mobility while at the same time keeping the salary threshold binding. As such, the EU Blue Card should be taken up as an instrument that carries the European flag on it in a positive European spirit.

Pointing out that such European spirit is not popular in current times, Nathalie Griesbeck MEP who represents the ALDE group as shadow rapporteur in the LIBE committee on the Blue Card file, stated that the revised Directive should nevertheless be much more ambitious than it currently aims to be. It should 1) not be limited to highly skilled workers (seeing that successful national schemes do not carry this limitation either); 2) have a lower salary threshold; and 3) build bridges to migration schemes to include beneficiaries of international protection.

Jean Lambert MEP, representing the Greens/EFA as rapporteur in the EMPL committee on the revision of the EU Blue Card Directive, similarly would like to see the Directive in a more ambitious and bigger framework in order to maximise the possibilities of regular entry into the EU. Virtually all European Member States see a skills shortage in their labour markets which is why the EU must become much more attractive. Lambert spoke out for an abolition of salary thresholds which more often than not becomes a shorthand for Member States to discriminate against third country nationals and a means to keep people out.

Following the opening statements of each MEP, participants had the opportunity to take part in the discussion. A representative from UEAPME pointed out that the revised Directive should be sensitive to the fact that there are currently 28 very different labour markets in the EU which calls for certain flexibility. Nathalie Griesbeck MEP agreed that due to these differences it is important to make a progressive change from the current national schemes to one unified European scheme and to allow for smooth transition. Brando Benifei MEP commented that due to the differences it is necessary to keep the salary thresholds and to also be careful in opening the scheme to lower skilled workers which would open the doors for social dumping in the EU.

After many other interesting questions and interventions concerning issues such as the lowering of standards of national schemes, family reunification and the broadening of the scope of the Directive, the evening ended on a positive note with all panelists agreeing that the revised EU Blue Card should serve to strengthen mobility for workers within the European Union.

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