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EU Blue Card: New rules to attract more highly skilled workers

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Find out how the EU aims to increase the attractiveness of the European Blue Card for highly-skilled migrants, EU affairs.

MEPs are set to give their final approval to the reform of the EU’s Blue Card initiative to make it easier to attract highly-qualified workers from outside Europe.

In May 2021, Parliament and Council negotiators agreed on a revision of the 2009 Blue Card directive to make it easier for employers in EU countries to hire people from elsewhere. Originally proposed by the European Commission in 2016, this will be the only legislative change at EU level in the field of legal labour migration in recent years.

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The revised directive on entry and residence conditions foresees more flexible criteria, including a lower threshold for the minimum salary that applicants must earn in order to qualify. It also expands the rights of beneficiaries to make it easier to move within the EU and be reunited with family faster. 

With the EU’s working-age population set to drop from 333 million in 2016 to 292 million by 2070, there will be significant implications for its labour force. Parliament will vote on the reform of the blue card system to facilitate the employment of highly-skilled non-EU workers during the plenary session in September.

Read more about the EU policy on migration.

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The update to the Blue Card system would allow applicants to present a valid work contract of at least six months instead of the current 12. To make it accessible to more people, the salary threshold for the Blue Card will be reduced to between 1 and 1.6 times the average gross annual salary.

Blue Card holders will be able to move more easily to another EU country one year after working in the country in which they first settled. Their family will be able to accompany them.

At the same time, the updated rules will allow refugees and asylum seekers that currently live in the EU to apply for a Blue Card in other EU countries and not just they one where they reside now, as is the rule now.

By lowering the criteria for admission and strengthening the rights of Blue Card holders and their families, Parliament hopes to increase the attractiveness of the EU Blue Card.

EU countries could reject or refuse to renew applications for a Blue Card where there is a proven threat to public security. Before issuing a card, member states would also be able to take account of conditions in their domestic labour market, for example high unemployment.

The Blue Card gives highly-skilled workers from outside the EU the right to live and work in any EU country with the exception of Denmark and Ireland.

Read more about migration in the EU

Find out more 

Arts

MEPs call for common minimum social standards for artists and cultural workers

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Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee called for the creation of an EU-wide framework on working conditions and minimum standards for all artists, CULT.

In a resolution adopted on Monday (27 September) by 26 votes in favour, none against and three abstentions, the Culture and Education Committee calls on Commission to propose a “European Status of the Artist”, setting out a common framework for working conditions and minimum standards for all EU countries, while fully respecting member states’ competencies on their labour market and cultural policy.

Cross-border mobility

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The differences in national legislation on an artist’s legal status and its cross-border recognition hinder collaboration and mobility. In the approved text, MEPs call on member states and Commission to remove all barriers to cross-border mobility, revising, if need be, administrative requirements on visas, taxation, and social security, as well as on the recognition of arts-based education degrees.

MEPs also call for specific programmes for the mobility of young creators and innovators.

"With this report, we have sent a strong message to improve cross-border mobility for artists, authors, cultural creators and cultural workers. It will help to give artists a better and more secure livelihood by clarifying their status and simplifying access to social security. And we will fight to solve the problems artists face today, be it on discrimination based on gender, race, origin or sexual orientation or be it political repression, which we all know is much too prominent in the EU nowadays," said the rapporteur Monica Semedo (Renew, LU).

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Copyright income and streaming platforms

Artists are exposed to unfair practices by dominant digital streaming platforms, such as buy-out clauses that deprive authors or their royalties. To remedy that, MEPs want the Commission and member states to ensure artists and cultural workers have access to collective bargaining and to strongly enforce protection for works and their creators in national copyright legislation.

Defend artistic freedom

MEPs urge Member States to foster and defend artistic freedom in order to uphold the right to freedom of expression and ensure that EU citizens can freely enjoy artistic creations. They urge the Commission to sanction EU countries that fail to uphold these freedoms.

Next steps

The resolution should be voted on by Parliament in October’s second plenary session.

Background

The pandemic has exposed the pre-existing labour vulnerabilities of artists and cultural workers: the arts is a field of employment characterised by intermittence, fragile livelihoods, weak or absent social security, MEPs say. Huge differences persist between Member States regarding support, social benefits and definitions of an artist.

In 2020, the cultural and creative sector in the EU experienced losses in turnover of over 30%, a cumulative loss of EUR 199 billion – with the music and performing arts sectors experiencing losses of 75% and 90% respectively.

Further information 

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Agriculture

Agriculture: Launch of an annual EU organic day

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On 24 September the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission celebrated the launch of an annual ‘EU organic day'. The three institutions signed a joint declaration establishing from now on each 23 September as EU organic day. This follows up on the Action Plan for the development of organic production, adopted by the Commission on 25 March 2021, which announced the creation of such a day to raise awareness of organic production.

At the signing and launch ceremony, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said: “Today we celebrate organic production, a sustainable type of agriculture where food production is done in harmony with nature, biodiversity and animal welfare. 23 September is also autumnal equinox, when day and night are equally long, a symbol of balance between agriculture and environment that ideally suits organic production. I am glad that together with the European Parliament, the Council, and key actors of this sector we get to launch this annual EU organic day, a great opportunity to raise awareness of organic production and promote the key role it plays in the transition to sustainable food systems.”

The overall aim of the Action Plan for the development of organic production is to boost substantially the production and consumption of organic products in order to contribute to the achievement of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies' targets such as reducing the use of fertilisers, pesticides and anti-microbials. The organic sector needs the right tools to grow, as laid out in the Action Plan. Structured around three axes - boosting consumption, increasing production, and further improving the sustainability of the sector -, 23 actions are put forward to ensure a balanced growth of the sector.

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Actions

To boost consumption the Action Plan includes actions such as informing and communicating about organic production, promoting the consumption of organic products, and stimulating a greater use of organics in public canteens through public procurement. Furthermore, to increase organic production, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will remain a key tool for supporting the conversion to organic farming. It will be complemented by, for instance, information events and networking for sharing best practices and certification for groups of farmers rather than for individuals. Finally, to improve the sustainability of organic farming, the Commission will dedicate at least 30% of the budget for research and innovation in the field of agriculture, forestry and rural areas to topics specific to or relevant for the organic sector.

Background

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Organic production comes with a number of important benefits: organic fields have around 30% more biodiversity, organically farmed animals enjoy a higher degree of animal welfare and take less antibiotics, organic farmers have higher incomes and are more resilient, and consumers know exactly what they are getting thanks to the EU organic logo.

More information

The action plan for the development of the organic sector

Farm to fork Strategy

Biodiversity Strategy

Organic farming at a glance

Common Agricultural Policy

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European elections

Germany’s far-left party eager to join coalition while others steer clear

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Co-leader of the Left Party Susanne Hennig-Wellsow speaks at a press conference during a convent of Germany's left party 'Die Linke' in Berlin. Copyright  Credit: AP

While Angela Merkel (pictured) avoided political campaigning for much of the election, as it became increasingly clear that her party was trailing in the polls, she went after her centre-left deputy with an old attack line, writes Lauren Chadwick

“With me as Chancellor, there would never be a coalition in which the Left is involved. And whether this is shared by Olaf Scholz or not remains to be seen,” Merkel said in late August.

Scholz also had criticism for Die Linke -- the Left Party -- but stopped short of completely rejecting the possibility of a coalition with them. He told German daily Tagesspiegel the far-left party would be required to commit to NATO and the transatlantic partnershipIt’s now been a constant attack line from the Christian Democrats in what some say is a last-ditch effort to grab moderates on the fence between Merkel’s centre-right party and the centre-left Social Democrats, who are leading in the polls.

Voters see “behind” the attack line from the CDU, said Dr Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck at the University of Mannheim, as it is “so old hat".about:blank

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Schmitt-Beck added it was a “sign of desperation” the CDU was resorting to this attack line once again as candidate Armin Laschet has failed to galvanise voters, polls show.

A possible governing coalition?

Although experts say a coalition involving the far-left Die Linke is not what Social Democratic leader Scholz wants, he is not likely to completely rule out the possibility.

That’s because if current polling is correct, the future government coalition in Germany will need to be formed with three political parties for the first time, meaning the Left Party has never been closer to receiving a possible spot in a coalition.

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The party is currently polling at around 6% nationally, making them the sixth most popular political party in the country.

Die Linke party co-leader Susanne Hennig-Wellsow even told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in early September: “The window was as wide open as ever before. When if not now?” in regards to a possible coalition with the Social Democrats and Greens.

Many saw her words as demonstrating the party’s high hopes and preparations for entering government.

But while the current Left Party has become more mainstream since it was officially formed in 2007 - its direct historical ties to communism and hard-left foreign policy might forever keep it out of government.

Communist history and hard-line views

Die Linke was formed as a merger of two parties: the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and a newer Labour and Social Justice party. The PDS is the direct successor of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the communist party that ruled in East Germany from 1946 to 1989.

“There are many people in Germany who see this legacy as a big problem," said Dr Thorsten Holzhauser, research associate at the Theodor Heuss House Foundation in Stuttgart.

"On the other hand, the party has been de-radicalising for a couple of years or even decades now. It's shifted towards a more left-wing social democratic profile in the last years, which is also something that many people have recognised."

But Die Linke is quite polarised internally with more moderate politics in East Germany and more radical voices in some West German regions.

While a younger generation of voters is more connected to the social justice issues and hot political topics such as the climate, feminism, anti-racism and migration, other parts of the party appeal more to populism and compete with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), experts say.

The party currently has one state minister-president: Bodo Ramelow in Thuringia.

But some of the party’s hard-line foreign policy views make it an unlikely choice for a governing partner.

“The party always said that it wants to get rid of NATO, and it is a party that stems from East Germany, from a very pro-Russian political culture, a very anti-Western political culture, so this is in the DNA of the party,” says Holzhauser.

Die Linke wants Germany out of NATO and no foreign deployment of Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr.

“We will not participate in a government that wages wars and permits combat missions by the Bundeswehr abroad, that promotes armament and militarisation. In the long term, we are sticking to the vision of a world without armies,” the platform reads.

Die Linke also rejects treating Russia and China as “enemies” and wants closer relations with both countries.

‘Unlikely’ to join a coalition

“There is a chance. It's not a very big chance, but there is a chance (Die Linke could join a coalition)," says Holzhauser, yet traditionally the “scare tactics by Conservatives have been very strong at mobilising against a left-wing alliance”.

Die Linke, which used to poll ahead of the Greens and Alternative for Germany (AfD) could have a problem garnering support in the future, he said, as it becomes less of a populist party and more establishment.

“While in the past, Die Linke has been quite successful as a somewhat populist force that mobilised against the West German political establishment, nowadays, the party is more and more part of the establishment,” says Holzhauser.https://www.euronews.com/embed/1660084

“For many voters, especially in East Germany, it has successfully integrated into the German party system. So this is the flip side of the coin of its own success, that it is getting more integrated and established but at the same time it loses attraction as a populist force.”

On social issues, it's more likely to have similar demands to the Greens and Social Democrats, however, including a wealth tax and higher minimum wage. They are platform ideas that haven't come to fruition in the current SPD/CDU coalition.

But whether that means they will enter government remains to be seen, despite the perceived high hopes of the party's leaders.

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