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Better legal labour migration to reduce illegal immigration

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MEPs are calling for better legal labour migration channels to reduce irregular arrivals and meet the needs of the economy, Society.

To respond to Europe’s demographic challenges and effectively match immigrants’ skills with labour market needs, Parliament's civil liberties committee is calling for new EU rules on legal labour migration. MEPs are set to vote on the report  - which also calls for an EU-wide talent pool, improved mobility and new migration channels - during the plenary session of 22-25 November.

Read more on what the EU does on migration.

While the integration of irregular migrants is a challenge, it should be seen as an opportunity, the report says. Encouraging labour migration via legal channels would boost employment among migrants and refugees, thereby benefitting the EU by contributing to tax revenues and accelerating economic growth and innovation.

Curtailing irregular immigration channels

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The EU’s migration policy is defined by a focus on strict border controls and effective returns, while very little has been done to promote safe and legal pathways to Europe.

Research conducted by the International Organization of Migration (IOM) found that 77% of irregular migrants had experienced persecution or conflict in their country of origin and may have been forced to come to Europe irregularly due to a lack of regular alternatives.

In a resolution adopted in May 2021, Parliament said: “Enhancing proper legal migration channels would help to reduce irregular migration, undermine the business model of criminal smugglers, reduce trafficking in human beings and labour exploitation, enhance equal opportunities for all workers and offer a legal path for those considering migrating to the Union”

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Meeting the demands of the labour market

The Covid-19 pandemic underlined the role of essential workers in sectors such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing and health care in keeping economies and societies alive. MEPs are calling on the European Commission to implement an ambitious admittance scheme for low and medium-skilled non-EU nationals to complement the revised Blue Card Directive for highly-skilled migrants.

The report proposes establishing an EU-wide talent pool for legally migrating workers, as well as a platform that pairs applicants’ profiles with the needs of EU-based industries, allowing member states to overcome labour shortages.

According to Abir Al-Sahlani (Renew, Sweden), who is responsible for guiding the report through Parliament: “The voluntary matching platform would serve as a helpful tool for those who wish to apply for work in member states and for EU-based employers to search in [non-EU] countries for potential employees.”

Recognizing migrants’ qualifications in the EU

MEPs are also calling for greater harmonisation of rules for the recognition of qualifications of migrant workers at EU level. The recognition of migrants’ qualifications currently depend on national rules, which vary significantly across the EU, and highly-skilled migrants often find themselves accepting jobs that require lower qualifications in their destination country. In 2015, the OECD reported that “those who enter the EU as asylum seekers are especially at risk of over-qualification”.

In 2019, about 48% of highly-skilled migrants worked in low or medium skilled jobs, compared with just 20% of EU citizens. Strikingly, among highly-skilled migrants, the most common form of occupation is as a cleaner or domestic helper, while 62% of computer programming firms and 43% of construction companies are reporting labour shortages.

“A strong and competitive Europe needs legal migration to properly address the demographic and economic challenges that the Union is facing,” said Al-Sahlani.

Immigrant entrepreneurs

As countries around the world ease the visa application process for foreign entrepreneurs and freelancers, MEPs are calling for new EU-wide multiple entry visas for the self-employed.

At present, EU migration laws focus on attracting employees under fixed-term labour contracts and although national schemes exist, few have proved successful. This is mainly due to territorial limits: entrepreneurs entering the EU via national schemes are not always guaranteed free movement or access to the single market.

The proposed measures would also help to combat the exploitation of seasonal workers, whose residence permits would no longer be tied to a single employer. They would have three months to find alternative employment after leaving a job before having their permits revoked.

Read more on migration

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Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

Common Agricultural Policy reform gets final approval from MEPs

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On Tuesday (23 November), Parliament gave the green light to the new EU Farm Policy. This reformed version aims to be greener, fairer, more flexible and transparent, AGRI, Plenary session.

During the negotiations on the legislative reform package, MEPs insisted that strengthening biodiversity and adhering to the EU’s environmental and climate laws and commitments will be key to the implementation of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), taking effect in 2023. While the Commission will assess whether national CAP strategic plans are in line with these commitments, farmers will have to comply with climate- and environmentally-friendly practices. Member states will be obliged to ensure that at least 35% of the rural development budget and at least 25% of direct payments will be dedicated to environmental and climate measures.

More support for small farms and young farmers

MEPs ensured that a minimum of 10% of direct payments will be used to support small and medium-sized farms and at least 3% of the CAP budget will go to young farmers. They also insisted that a crisis reserve with an annual budget of €450 million (in current prices) will be permanently ready to help farmers with price or market instability.

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More transparency and better compliance with labour rules

As a result of Parliament’s pressure, EU labour rules in agricultural sectors will be better monitored and infringements penalised thanks to the cooperation between national labour inspectors and CAP paying agencies.

Information about final beneficiaries of EU support will be more transparent thanks to an EU data mining tool, which member states will get access to and which helps to identify the risk of fraud occurring by cross-checking information in public databases.

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The “Strategic plans regulation” was adopted with 452 votes in favour, 178 against and 57 abstentions, the “Horizontal regulation” with 485 votes in favour, 142 against and 61 abstentions and the “Common market organisation regulation” with 487 in favour, 130 against and 71 abstentions.

Rapporteur for the 'Strategic plans regulation' Peter Jahr (EPP, DE) said: “By approving the CAP reform, we guarantee planning security not only for member states, but above all for our European farmers. We have ensured that this CAP is more sustainable, transparent and predictable. The new delivery model will reduce the bureaucratic burden of agricultural policy on farmers. Our vote today has shown that we want to protect and promote family farms, the people who maintain and preserve our cultural landscape.”

Rapporteur for the 'Horizontal regulation' Ulrike Müller (RE, DE) said: “Today marks a historic day for the new CAP, a day when we advance towards a more environmentally ambitious, socially aware and performance-oriented agricultural policy. The new delivery model will ensure that the focus of the CAP will be more on achieving its targets and less on simply complying with the rules. We also made sure CAP payments are more transparent and that the EU’s financial interests are better protected. This CAP will really be a success.”

Rapporteur for the 'Common market organization regulation' Eric Andrieu (S&D, FR) said: “For the first time in more than 30 years, thanks to the common market organisation part of the CAP reform, the reforms approved today will mean more market regulation than deregulation. We can be proud of how far we have come, because the progress made is important for farmers, for the sector, and for consumers. The common market organisation is certainly a first step in the right direction.”

Next steps

Current CAP rules were extended after 31 December 2020 and replaced by transitional rules until the end of 2022. Once approved by the Council, the new rules will be applicable from 1 January 2023.

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Artificial intelligence

AI: 'We need to act fast to realise the EU's potential'

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The EU could set global standards on Artificial Intelligence (AI), but to reap its benefits the rules must come fast and be flexible, said Axel Voss (pictured), the MEP responsible for a report on AI, Society.

"We have to be aware that AI is of extremely strategic relevance," said Axel Voss (EPP, Germany) in this Facebook live interview. The MEP is guiding the report from the special committee on artificial intelligence in a digital age through the European Parliament.

Acknowledging the technology's importance, the Parliament set up the committee to focus on AI, learn how it might influence the EU economy, find out   about different countries' approaches and come up with suggestions for future legislation.

The draft report, presented to the committee on 9 November 2021, says the EU should focus on AI's enormous potential. Report author Voss said this  technology could play a key role in areas such as climate change, the health sector and EU competitiveness.

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Learn more about what AI is and how it is used.

Can the EU become a bigger AI player?

The EU is falling behind in the global tech race and if it wants to remain an economic and global power, the report says, it should become a global power in AI. If the EU does not act swiftly and courageously, it will end up becoming a "digital colony" of China, the US and other states and risk losing its political stability, social security and individual liberties, the report says. In addition, emerging technologies could lead to a global power shift away from the Western world.

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The EU's failure to commercialise technological innovations means "our best ideas, talent and companies" are going elsewhere, according to the report. Voss warned that the window of opportunity is closing, saying the EU needs to “concentrate, prioritise, invest”.

Europe should concentrate more on business models that would enable the transformation of research into products, ensure a competitive environment for companies and prevent a brain drain. Only 8 of top 200 digital companies are based in the EU.

The importance of data

Data is crucial for the development of AI. "If we think that we can compete in the world without providing data, then we are out," Voss said. "We should be focusing more on how we can provide data, including personal data."

"Too many people think that we can't open GDPR right now," which means a lack of data for EU industry, he said. GDPR sets a global standard, Voss said, "but not with the mind-set that if we have reached a golden standard we can’t change it any longer: you only stay in the first place if you are always improving."

"The big collectors of data are in China or the US. If we do want to do something about this, we have to do something very fast because speed is a question of competition in this area."

Democracy and human rights concerns

The EU is "used to setting standards and combining them with fundamental rights, with core European values. This is what we can deliver and I would also say this is something the world also needs," he said.

Voss believes the EU can mitigate the risks AI can pose to human rights and democracy when misused, as in some authoritarian states, "if we do this pragmatically”.

He warns against an ideological approach. “If we concentrate on combining this technology with our core European values and don’t overburden our industry and our companies, we have a good chance of succeeding."

Learn more about what the Parliament wants regarding AI rules.

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European Parliament

Future of Europe: Citizens’ panels take the floor

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Citizens’ panels will meet over the coming months to discuss the EU’s future and make recommendations. Find out more, EU affairs.

The Conference on the Future of Europe is putting people at the centre of the discussion on how the EU should evolve to face future challenges. Citizens’ panels have an important role to play: they will discuss ideas from events across the EU and proposals submitted through the Conference platform and will make recommendations to be discussed with EU institutions and other stakeholders.

Who is taking part?

There are four European citizens’ panels, each one including 200 citizens. Panel members have been selected randomly, but in a way that reflects the EU’s diversity. For example, there will be an equal number of men and women in each panel as well as a proportional representation of Europeans from urban and rural areas. Young people between 16 and 25 will make up one third of the members.

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What will be discussed?

Each panel will deal with some of the topics on which people have been invited to propose ideas:

  • Stronger economy, social justice and jobs/education, culture, youth, sport/digital transformation;
  • European democracy/values and rights, rule of law, security;
  • climate change, environment/health, and;
  • the EU in the world/migration.


Panel members will be able to raise additional issues. Independent experts will be available at the meetings to provide advice.

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When will citizens’ panels meet?

Each of the panels will meet three times. The first sessions took place over four weekends between 17 September and 17 October in Parliament’s premises in Strasbourg. The second sessions will take place online in November and the third sessions will be held in December and January in cities across the EU, if the health situation permits.

The schedule for the four citizens’ panels

PanelTopicsFirst sessionSecond sessionThird session
1Stronger economy, social justice and jobs /education, culture, youth, sport/digital transformation17-19 September5-7 November3-5 December (Dublin)
2European democracy/values and rights, rule of law, security24-26 September12-14 November10-12 December (Florence)
3Climate change, environment/ health1-3 October19-21 November7-9 January (Warsaw)
4The EU in the world/migration15-17 October26-28 November14-16 January (Maastricht)

What will be the outcome?

Panels will formulate recommendations, which will be discussed at the Conference Plenary that brings together citizens, representatives of EU institutions and national parliaments as well as other stakeholders. Twenty representatives from each panel will take part in Conference Plenaries and will present the outcome of panels’ work.

The panels’ recommendations will feed into the final Conference report, which will be prepared in the spring of 2022 by the executive board of the Conference. The board comprises representatives of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission - the institutions that will have to follow up on the conclusions - as well as observers from all Conference stakeholders. The report will be drawn up in full collaboration with the Conference Plenary and will have to receive its approval.

How to follow panels’ work?

Panel sessions where all members meet will be streamed online. You will be able to find more details about them on the Conference platform. 

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