Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

The EU introduces the Blue Card for third-country nationals

Adelina Marini, May 26, 2009

The EU has approved the directive for the introduction of a "Blue card" which will impose sanctions for employers that hire illegal immigrants. This directive actually upgrades the Common policy on immigration in the Union. The new legislation proposes attractive conditions for entry and residence withing the EU of third countries nationals in member states that experience gaps in their labour markets. In the meantime, much more efforts are put in tackling one of the main factors for attraction of illegal immigration - the possibilities for black labour. The directive Employers' sanctions has been officially approved by the Council after an agreement at first reading with the Parliament on the 19th of February and it proposes fines, loss of subsidies (even euro funds) and in some cases measures, envisaged in national penal codes, if there's an abuse with the illegal status of workers.

In his speech after the voting, the Commissioner and vice president of the Commission Jacques Barrot, responsible for the justice, freedom and security said that "highly skilled migration to Europe increases our competitiveness and economic growth, and helps tackling the demographic problems resulting from our aging population. With todays' adoption of the EU Blue Card we send a clear signal that, irrespective of the economic ups and downs, such migrants are always welcome in the EU".

According to the available data, only 1.7 % of the total employed population in the EU are third-country highly qualified workers. With this share the EU lags behind all other major immigration countries like Australia (9.9 %), Canada (7.3 %), US (3.2 %) and Switzerland with 5.3 %. But according to the latest such research of Eurostat, the black labour market in the EU is something around 20 %.

The most important with this directive is that it requires a harmonised admission procedure based on common criteria: a work contract, professional qualifications and a minimum salary level which has to be at least 1.5 of the annual average wage for professions in need. Third-country nationals can apply for the Eu Blue Card from outside the EU and from within. The successful candidates will be granted a special work and residence permit, which guarantees a series of social-economic rights and attractive conditions for family reunion.

The introduction of the EU Blue Card has been discussed for several years in the EU but it caused a lot of rows and arguments, especially because of some member states' fear of foreign labour workers flooding. The reason for these fears was the fifth enlargement of the EU in 2004 when the EU joined 8 ex-communist states and Cyprus and Malta. A lot of those countries' nationals used the opening of the borders to find better lives in the old member states.

Bulgaria also considers the introduction of something like a "green card" but only for Bulgarian immigrants abroad or ethnic Bulgarians. But still the Strategy for the Bulgarians abroad hasn't been approved yet.