Britain’s not interested in Blue Card Scheme

EU interior ministers endorse a new "Blue Card" scheme aimed at attracting highly skilled workers to Europe. The "Blue Card", which takes its name from the EU flag and whose name resonates with the US "green card", would entitle highly qualified third-country nationals to a series of rights in any EU nation. Euractiv.com reported that the definition of what skilled labour actually represents was one of the main obstacles to the approval of the Blue Card Directive.

The EU wants to make the bloc more competitive in a battle with the United States for technology workers and hospital staff from the developing world, increasingly needed to plug labour gaps. Foreign high-skilled workers make up just 1.72 percent of migrant workers in the EU, compared with 9.9 percent in Australia, 7.3 percent in Canada and 3.2 percent in the United States, EU data shows.

When agreed by ministers, the Blue Card will be delivered to workers with a work contract which offers them a gross annual salary of at least 1.5 times the average in the member state concerned. The Blue Card will offer candidates speedier work permits and make it easier for migrants’ families to join them, find public housing and acquire long-term resident status.

But after 18 months of working with a Blue Card in one EU state when an immigrant can move to work in another EU state, he or she must apply for a new Blue Card within a month of arrival. “This takes away most of the advantage of having an EU-wide scheme for high skilled migrants because it gives access to a much smaller market and many fewer opportunities”, says Jakob von Weizsaecker, from the Brussels-based Bruegel think tank. "It is clearly a step in right direction but I don’t expect it to be a big success because if you compare to the United States, a similar title gives access to the whole U.S. market."

EU diplomats said the bloc was close to an agreement on the Blue Card scheme, but a few issues still remained to be solved. Some countries such as the UK, Finland and Germany, where legislation does not provide for fixed minimum salaries, have reportedly been reluctant to agree to the concept. But they have received assurances that the average salary is strictly statistical and that the Blue Card will not require changes to labour legislation, diplomats explained.

Britain, Denmark and Ireland will not take part in the Blue Card Scheme, a French presidency official said.