Revision of Blue Card directive: disagreement on recruitment of highly skilled third-country nationals

In order to come to grips with skills shortages in Europe, in 2016 the European Commission presented proposals for a revision of the Blue Card whereby highly qualified workers from third countries would find their way into the European labour market more easily. For employers, the proposals set the right course but still need important corrections. EU Council and European Parliament differ sharply from each other in the content of their deliberations.
Under the Slovakian EU Council Presidency in 2016, the negotiations moved forward very slowly. Many Member States – including Germany – kept their distance from the official position on the revised proposal for a Blue Card directive (directive 2009/50/EC).

Council insists on national instead of European admission policy

Considerable resistance emerged in particular with regard to the strict ban on national residence permits applicable in parallel for highly skilled employment as proposed by the Commission (article 3 paragraph 4 of the proposal). This proposal is rightly problematic since it would prevent Member States from designing their own immigration policy, a policy which reflects their skilled worker needs and react in a targeted way to particular shortages on the labour market.

The Council deliberations on this highly controversial point have continued under the Maltese Presidency since early 2017 – but currently without any significant progress. Nevertheless, the Maltese Council presidency still aims at reaching a common position before the end of June 2017.

EP advocates a widening of the scope of the directive

In the European Parliament, presentation of the draft report was delayed due to competence disputes between the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) and the Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL). The Conference of Presidents finally adopted the procedure with associated Committees (under article 54 of the EP’s rules of procedure) – LIBE is the lead Committee on this dossier.

At the start of 2017, rapporteur Jean Lambert (Greens, UK) first presented her amendment proposals for the revision proposal in the EMPL Committee. Her priority is to remove salary thresholds from the admission criteria for a Blue Card. Furthermore, MEP Lambert calls for a simplified recognition of work experience including non-formal qualifications as a counterpart to university diplomas. For BDA, it should be ensured that only those with particular work experience whose skills are comparable to those of graduates in terms of value on the labour market can actually benefit from this provision.

In the lead LIBE Committee, rapporteur Claude Moraes (S&D, UK) has set himself the objective of supporting and/or extending every provision proposal which makes the Blue Card more attractive as an access route into the EU. BDA welcomes this approach of further improving the revision proposal in order to give highly skilled workers from third countries the possibility to work in the EU. Nevertheless, the rapporteur makes proposals at many points which would tend to reduce the attractiveness of the Blue Card for third-country nationals.

The votes in the Committees are scheduled for April (EMPL) and May (LIBE). The EP is expected to adopt its resolution on the revision proposal in plenary in early July so that the so-called “trilogue negotiations” between the European institutions could begin after the summer break. Information about the text
drafted by: Séverine Féraud (BDA)

Séverine Féraud
Senior Adviser