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In a bid to attract skilled workers, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner has pledged to boost a plan to ease immigration to the 27-nation bloc.
The initiatives aims to plug the skilled-labor gaps in the EU
The European Union has said it will throw new support behind a plan to allow more legal migrants to take up jobs within the EU.
"We are planning a new migration initiative," EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told the Web site of German newspaper Die Welt. "The aim of this strategy is to stem illegal immigration, to encourage the flow of legal migrants and to remedy a lack of skilled labor in some EU economies."
Aimed at certain migrants
Listening for change: Benita Ferrero-Waldner
The plan would set up so-called "mobility partnerships" that would allow people from outside the EU to enter legally, although they would only be able to stay for a specific period of time.
At the same time -- according to the labor needs of specific countries -- they could get a work visa, Ferrero-Waldner said.
The initiative is part of the EU's 12 billion euro ($16 billion) strong European Neighborhood Policy of mutual cooperation. The ENP is tailored to create a ring of peaceful and economically advanced states around the EU's borders, and covers 16 countries, including Ukraine, Moldova, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Israel.
Countries still have choice
In the end, each EU country could choose how many immigrants it is willing to take in, and in which fields they should issue work visas, Ferrero-Waldner specified.
But the new initiative is aimed at widening the scope of the EU's free movement policy, where citizens in the 27-nation bloc can move between member states.
By making it easier to get visas, the plan would increase demographic mobility, Ferrero-Waldner said.
During the latest EU expansion, in 2004, hundreds of thousands of workers from the 10 central and eastern European countries that joined the union headed to the old EU countries for work.
Germany seeks engineers
EU expansion allowed more migration flexibilty
Countries like Great Britain, Ireland and Sweden opened up their labor markets from the beginning -- with positive economic results, early studies show. But Germany, Europe's largest economy, continues to keep a tight regulatory rein on immigration.
Last month, however, Germany said it would open its doors to engineers from eastern Europe earlier than planned, to help compensate for a shortage of skilled workers in the sector.
'This policy makes us all more secure'
While the ENP is high on Brussels' political agenda, it has found less resonance among EU citizens. A recent poll suggested 54 percent of Europeans show little interest in what is happening outside the bloc's borders, the EU Observer reported.
"I hope that more and more people will appreciate that this policy makes us all more secure and that the advantages the European Neighborhood Policy brings are well worth the cost," Ferrero-Waldner told the EU Observer in response to the poll