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EU adopts skilled worker ‘blue card’ scheme

Published on 26/05/2009

Brussels — European Union member states adopted Monday a new "blue card" scheme to attract skilled workers from outside the bloc, as well as measures to sanction EU employers who use black-market labour.

"I am very glad that today we have been able to put in place two important pieces of our common immigration policy," EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot said in a statement.

"Highly skilled migration into Europe increases our competitiveness and economic growth, and helps tackling the demographic problems resulting from our ageing population."

With their population growth in decline, EU member states are looking to foreign labour to fill certain jobs but are struggling to compete with the United States, which attracts roughly twice the number of skilled workers.

The blue card initiative, set to come into force within the next two years in some European countries, is offers certain employment and residency rights to highly qualified non-EU nationals.

Penalties for employing black-market labour — between 4.5 and eight million people work illegally in the EU’s building, hotel and agriculture industries — are meanwhile set to enter force in 2011.

Employers face fines and possibly prison sentences in the worst cases. Companies involved could be banned from public tenders for five years, forced to give back public aid or face closure.