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21st May 2022

EU eyes job deal with Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia

  • 'We cannot cope without labour migration,' said EU commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas (l) (Photo: European Union, 2022)
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The European Commission is using labour migration to pressure countries into preventing people from fleeing to Europe on an irregular basis.

The idea is to create so-called "talent partnerships", where people can present themselves for possible job opportunities in an EU member state, before ever leaving their country.

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"We stand ready to start with Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt," EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (27 April).

The idea is to match migrants' skills with employers in Europe that are unable to find workers at home. The commission cited labour shortfalls in areas like healthcare, agri-food and tourism.

The labour from abroad is also needed given the widening demographic gap in Europe, where an ageing population is outpacing the young.

But it also comes with conditions, requiring those countries to prevent irregular departures towards the European Union in exchange for legal pathways.

"These are very much linked," confirmed Johansson.

Some three million people arrive legally every year in the EU, compared to up to 200,000 that cross irregularly, said the commission.

"For the first time, we're shifting from hosting, to selecting the skills that we're lacking in Europe," said EU commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas.

The commission is also eyeing Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan and Senegal for the scheme.

The idea is part of a wider package on legal migration announced on Wednesday by the commission, which also seeks to give people more labour and residency rights once in the EU.

This includes revamping two EU laws designed to protect migrant workers; the single permit directive and the long-term residents directive.

Under current EU laws, people can have their residency rights strippped if they lose a job. This presents a host of problems by unscrupulous employers who can then exploit them.

The commission now wants to change the rules so that a migrant can leave their job and still retain residency rights under a revamp of the single permit directive.

Another issue is that migrants with long-term residency permits, often given after five years, are then stuck in one member state.

The commission wants to change it so that the five year waiting period can be accumulated in different member states.

"You can also add a period of being here as a student," said Johansson.

They would also be allowed to leave the EU for two years without losing their long term residence permits. This falls under the scope of the long-term residents directive.

It is not immediately clear if EU states will agree to these proposals. High skilled migrants already tend to eschew the EU in favour of places like the United States.

Figures from the EU's statistical office, Eurostat, show that only a handful of highly-skilled workers, under a so-called Blue Card scheme, have landed jobs in Hungary and Greece.

Whereas Germany attracted over 5,000 under the scheme in 2020, Hungary took in five persons and Greece three.

The Blue Card has since been revamped and is now set to come into force this summer, said Johansson.

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