9th Dec 2023

Brussels in plan to attract guest workers from outside EU

  • Construction, tourism and agriculture are key areas where workers are needed (Photo: Wikipedia)

As 300,000 illegal migrants arrive on EU territory each year, Brussels is set to table a proposal establishing special agreements with third countries, tailored to tackle Europe's core dilemma - how to fulfil its economic needs for workers, while alleviating the pressure of illegal migration.

On Wednesday (16 May), EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini will kick off the lengthy legislative process, which at the end could see workers going back and forth between EU and non-EU countries depending on job availability - something known in Brussels' jargon as circular migration.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Under the scheme, an EU member state – in order to fill its labour gap – would temporarily hire non-EU workers, as long as they respect the key condition and return to their home country after their contracts expire.

"The idea is that people come and work in the EU for a couple of months, then return home and later come again," one EU official explained.

According to the commission source, such a partnership could be "a win-win situation", as it would "match job offers in the EU member state with job seekers in the third country."

Currently, 5 million to 7 million illegal immigrants are believed to be within the EU, but 87 percent of those who enter the bloc are undereducated and do not meet the union's labour market needs.

"If Europe does not get its act together, it will run into enormous problems," an EU official said, referring to estimates that labour shortages could peak in 20 years time when 25 million Europeans are expected to retire from work.

Some sectors may even collapse, he warned.

Who will be on board?

Brussels is now pinning its hopes on Africa as well as the EU's eastern and south-eastern neighbours to provide skilled workers, especially in sectors such as agriculture, construction and tourism.

In practice, the European Commission suggests pooling offers from individual member states and then conducting talks with a third country, able to provide an adequate labour force. EU capitals would then take care of recognizing local diplomas, providing additional professional and language training as well as granting visas.

In addition, Brussels will table several incentives, for example multiple-entry visas, in order to address one of the main concerns of member states: how to prevent foreign immigrants from outstaying their welcome in Europe.

Five countries – from Africa, the Caucasus region and the Balkans - have already signalled they would sign up to the project, with Brussels now hoping to sell the idea to EU home affairs ministers when they meet in mid-June.

But one EU official predicted it would be "extremely difficult" for some EU governments to swallow.

"Until now, no EU leader has had the political courage to admit their country is in need of immigrants," he said, adding "they all pretend to have their country's labour market under control."

The commission argues that the idea of recruiting outside its own borders has already been tested by Australia and the US, where approximately 400 economists are tasked to match US labour market needs with third countries' supplies.

"The price of the EU not acting is simply too high," the EU's executive body warns.

Orban's sovereignty bill seen as fresh attack on rule of law

Hungary's new sovereignty law has been criticised by the opposition as 'another dark milestone' for the country's democratic values and the rule of law — and it could bring yet another clash between Budapest and Brussels.


Why Spain's amnesty deal with Catalans is source of resentment

Spain's new amnesty law for Catalan separatists has sparked protests across the country, fueling concerns about the rule of law, judicial independence, and accountability. But why is the bill so problematic? And who opposes it?


How Wilders' Dutch extremism goes way beyond Islamophobia

Without losing sight of his pervasive Islamophobia, it is essential to note Geert Wilders' far-right extremism extends to other issues that could drastically alter the nature of Dutch politics — and end its often constructive role in advancing EU policies.

Latest News

  1. How Moldova is trying to control tuberculosis
  2. Many problems to solve in Dubai — honesty about them is good
  3. Sudanese fleeing violence find no haven in Egypt or EU
  4. How should EU reform the humanitarian aid system?
  5. EU suggests visa-bans on Israeli settlers, following US example
  6. EU ministers prepare for all-night fiscal debate
  7. Spain's Nadia Calviño backed to be EIB's first female chief
  8. Is there hope for the EU and eurozone?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  3. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  4. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?
  5. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  6. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  3. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  4. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us