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Transforming the "Blues Card" into a Truly Blue Card

Philippe De Bruycker
Professor at the Migration Policy Centre, RSCAS

10 November 2014


Jean-Claude Juncker has been perspicacious in proposing to revise the “Blue Card” Directive 2009/50 designed to facilitate the admission of highly skilled migrants into the EU, contrary to the pusillanimous opinion expressed by DG Home Affairs in its report of 22 May 2014 where it concluded, after having underlined most of the weaknesses of this instrument that “on the basis of the available information and in view of the short time of application no amendments are currently proposed » (COM(2014)287). The Blue Card directive is a actually good example of the typical results of the intergovernmental method applicable before the Lisbon Treaty. It is a complicated instrument designed by Home Affairs Ministers, harmonising Member States’ policies at a low level and hiding their preference for ‘business as usual’ behind the goal of a common immigration policy while losing sight of the political goal pursued. In my opinion, two questions should be answered during the debate that will take place in the coming months.

Firstly, do Member States still want a large margin of maneuver as under the current directive, possibly to continue competing with one another? If their aim is to preserve national schemes better than the European one, any serious reform will be blocked. Or, does the EU prefer to compete with a growing number of third countries in unison? If so, it should be possible to devise an ambitious European scheme that could be advertised worldwide. Therefore, restricting the too broad definition of a highly skilled worker provided by the current directive, as being the holder of a bachelor’s degree, seems necessary. One could even discuss the possibility for Member States to define the sectors (IT, medicine, engineering, etc.) in which they would apply the new directive. This would give the Member States some flexibility in a system that could be coordinated at EU level.

Secondly, do we want a real Blue Card? The question seems strange as it is supposed to exist since 2009. The truth is that it does not. First, the holder of a Blue Card delivered by one Member State, who wishes to move to another Member State needs to apply for a new… Blue Card! Moreover, the conditions to obtain that second Blue Card -- apart of having spent 18 months in the first Member State -- are the same ones as those to fulfill to be admitted initially into the EU. In other words, a Blue Card holder does not enjoy freedom of movement. The EU is thus falsely advertising and creating confusion for migrants and even for EU officials. Creating a true Blue Card, valid throughout the EU, requires changing our logic by accepting mutual recognition between Member States in complement to harmonisation. However, mutual recognition presupposes mutual trust, something that is unfortunately increasingly lacking among Member States...

Let us hope that the new Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, will be in a position to steer the debate in the direction that he indicated during his hearing with the European Parliament. The launching by the Commission of a green paper on this issue could be a good start.


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