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The EU’s legal migration acquis: Patching up the patchwork

Labour migration / ISSUE PAPER
Tesseltje de Lange , Kees Groenendijk

Date: 16/03/2021
The European Commission and EU member states must increase intra-EU mobility opportunities for already lawfully present third-country nationals (TCNs). A considerable workforce of TCNs is waiting to work across EU borders in the same way as EU citizens; their waiting is not conducive to making the EU legal migration acquis patchwork work. 

In its proposal on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, the European Commission has set out to do just that. If it wants to succeed and address Europe’s demographic trends and the foreseeable shortages in the continent’s national labour markets, a strong focus on enhancing the intra-EU mobility of TCNs already present in the EU is imperative. This Issue Paper presents five key recommendations that would improve the patchwork of the legal migration acquis

  1. Harmonise existing rules. Full harmonisation of the legal migration acquis is not the immediate aim of EU member states but could become the objective in the long run. In the meantime, the Commission can take action to lift uncertainties over the meaning and subsequent implementation of the patchwork acquis. More legal certainty can only be experienced if the labour migration directives are used and litigated. 
  2. Redesign the Single Permit Directive to deal with all procedures. The Single Permit Directive should, as a general directive on procedures, expand its subject matter to include all procedures on visas for entry and procedures on renewal and status switching. This could enable quick access to the Long-Term Resident status and intra-EU mobility. 
  3. Engage third parties in the enforcement of equal treatment rights. The enforcement of the Single Permit Directive can be improved by first shifting the burden of proof of unequal treatment from the single permit holder to the employer. Second, third parties (e.g. work councils, NGOs) should be granted legal standing to engage in proceedings before national courts on behalf of or in support of single permit holders. In general terms, labour rights protection should be a priority of the highest degree. 
  4. Design a ‘Light Blue Card’ for medium-skilled labour. To facilitate migration for medium-skilled jobs, rather than expand the scope of the Single Permit Directive, we suggest adding an optional or add-on, ‘light blue’ alternative for medium-skilled or -qualified labour (e.g. care work) to the recast Blue Card Directive. 
  5. Facilitate the intra-EU mobility of third-country nationals. Rather than allow employers to use intra-EU posting to hire ‘cheap’ TCN workers in substandard conditions in low- and medium-skilled jobs, TCNs already lawfully present in the Union should get priority to access the EU labour market. 

Read the full paper here.
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