Recommendations by European Committee of the Regions identify ways in which cities can ease access to jobs, accelerate their integration, and encourage them to start businesses.
The European Union's commitment to attracting skilled workers from outside its borders should be evident at every stage of migration process, the European Committee of the Regions says in an opinion that argues that cities can help the EU and its member states improve their management of legal migration. The recommendations also argue that the war in Ukraine has highlighted the need to speed up the recognition of skills brought by refugees – an issue critical for their integration and for local economies.
Recommendations proposed by the European Committee of the Regions in an opinion on "Legal migration - Attracting skills and talent to the EU" are designed to ease access to jobs for refugees and skilled migrants, accelerate their integration, and encourage them to start businesses. The recommendations suggest that, to improve recruitment, would-be migrants should be able to lodge applications from third countries and that, to improve immigrants' integration and ability to set up businesses, local and regional authorities should receive greater support for integration and entrepreneurship programmes. The opinion also supports ideas to enable legal migrants to go on to develop their careers in other EU countries.
The opinion's rapporteur – Giuseppe Varacalli (IT/Renew Europe), member of Gerace Municipal Council – welcomed the more strategic approach to legal migration being advocated by the European Commission, but urged it to encourage greater cooperation with local and regional authorities and local civil society. They can, he said, help provide a better picture of the needs of local communities and economies and of legal migrants themselves.
Mr Varacalli said: "We recognise that migrants already play a key role in the European economy and society. We need to be good at attracting migrants legally – particularly those with skills and talent – to stimulate growth in Europe, which is increasingly becoming an 'old continent of old people'. They should be able to stay with a long-term permit granted upon arrival and with the ability to move between member states and of course having the same rights. Many people think of migration as a problem. In reality, it is a great opportunity, if well managed."
The opinion argues for a more concerted effort to ensure that third-country nationals enjoy equal treatment in the workplace and in terms of access to social security benefits. It notes that immigrants were critical to ensuring the provision of public services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlights their potential importance in the EU's transition to a green economy.
The European Union is aiming to adopt by February 2024 a large package of proposals within the New Migration and Asylum Pact, which is intended to improve migration procedures, including the EU's ability to attract talent and support the integration of asylum-seekers and migrants into local communities.
The CoR's opinion welcomes the European Commission's efforts to streamline procedures to help legal migrants secure work and residence permits, and to make it easier for them to gain long-term residence. The CoR also voiced support for efforts to provide young people from outside the EU with opportunities to study, travel and ultimately work in the EU, through – for example – its recently launched talent partnerships with North Africa.
The CoR's recommendations emphasise, however, that a more flexible response is needed to the characteristics of particular types of migrants and to economic needs. The opinion welcomes an EU pilot project – the EU Talent Pool – that enables refugees and legal migrants find employers interested in their skills, but adds that more EU policies need to be accessible to refugees. It also emphasises the importance of recognising the types of vocational skills necessary – for example – in sectors such as energy that will be critical to the transition to a green economy. At the same time, the opinion that "those whose talents lie in the arts should be part of the equation", with the possibility of working legally in the EU.
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