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Adoption of EU Immigration Pact slips unnoticed

The issue of immigration has slipped to the back of the EU leaders debate. 15 October 2008. The leaders of the 27 EU-member states have arrived in the Belgian capital Brussels for a two-day summit.

Dwarfed by the financial crisis, the adoption later today of a European Pact on Immigration and Asylum by EU leaders – meant to be one of the highlights of the French EU Presidency – risks going unnoticed.

The main issue on the agenda is a multi-billion-euro rescue scheme for Europe’s injured banks. The summit had originally been scheduled to discuss environmental issues and the EU’s determination to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The lack of attention to the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum from both governments and the press come as a blow for French Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux, who had hoped to make the date the apex of his country’s stint at the helm of European Union.

The pact seeks to improve the management of legal immigration, tighten controls on illegal immigrants and construct a common asylum policy. EU nations would base legal immigration on workers or professionals whose skills are tailored to their particular labour needs, favouring those who would stay in their countries long term.

The new guidelines for managing immigration enclose an agreement on a 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.

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.

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