The European Commission wants special immigration rules to lure high-skilled workers from outside the bloc as well as measures to better fight the growing problem of illegal immigration.
Brussels wants to make it easier for skilled workers to gain entry to the bloc
Addressing a news conference in Brussels, EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini underlined that the 25-nation European Union will need more immigrants in future to offset the impact of graying populations across the bloc.
According to EU statistics, the EU workforce will decline by 52 million between 2004 and 2050. Germany, Hungary, Italy and Latvia are already facing a fall in the working age population.
Harmo n izatio n , but n o quotas
Frattini has ambitious plans to plug the EU's looming gaps in skilled labor
At the same time, Frattini said he was aware of the nervousness in national capitals on sensitive issues of asylum and immigration.
He assured that in the face of strong resistance from heavyweight members like Germany and France, the EU would not make immigration quotas binding on any of its members.
"It is up to Germany, it is up to each member state to decide whether and how many people have to be admitted every year. I will respect this principle," Frattini said.
The new German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had made it clear to Frattini that Germany's tough stance on the issue wouldn't change even after a change of government in Berlin.
Frattini however said that the aim of the EU was to harmonize and coordinate immigration standards and the rights of non-EU workers across the bloc. "What I am dealing with is… common standards… and that is an area where there is consensus also from Germany," he said.
Tackli n g illegal immigratio n
The EU hopes to deter illegal immigration
In the face of the high numbers of migrants living illegally in the EU, lawful migration has to be eased and clear criteria for migration must be formulated, Frattini added.
"Today, it's the case that all member states have their own immigration policies and at the same time a high level of illegal immigration. Our aim must be to tackle this illegal immigration within a legal framework."
The EU's efforts to counter illegal immigration has so far largely focused on strengthening border controls and procedures for expelling illegal migrants.
Frattini now wants rules that make it easier for low-skilled workers to enter the bloc, thus effectively deterring illegal work.
One example the EU commissioner provided was that of the European agricultural sector, which usually faces demands for people willing to take on low-paid work.
Frattini said the EU should have a special system which would allow seasonal workers from outside the bloc to work in Europe a number of months each year for four to five years. That would discourage illegal entry or people overstaying their visa permits, he argued.
Luri n g the highly-skilled
The European Commission has also emphasized that it must make efforts to attract highly-skilled, talented workers from outside the EU who now prefer the US to Europe.
The EU Commission estimates that by 2030, Europe will be facing a workforce shortfall of 20 million people.
"We propose a speeded up application processes in order to encourage highly-talented people to come to Europe to work here," Frattini said.
In addition to make it easier for highly-skilled workers to gain entry to the EU, the proposals include the introduction of an EU work permit valid in all 25 member states as well as making it easier for non EU-workers holding jobs with European multinationals to travel and work in those companies' European offices.