EU to offer skilled migrants more flexible travel

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CERNOBBIO, Italy, Oct 19 (Reuters) The European Union is trying to attract skilled migrants by offering them more flexible travel arrangements than they would get in the United States, a senior EU official said today.

European Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini, who will present the ''blue card'' migration scheme to member states on Oct. 23, said card holders would be able to enter and leave the 27-nation bloc freely after a three-year stay, without having to re-apply for entry.

The proposal aims to reverse a trend whereby skilled migrants from developing countries tend to go to the United States while Europe, whose population is ageing and declining, appears to attract mainly unskilled labour.

The blue card residence permit would enable skilled migrants to get long residence status by spending three years in one EU country and two in another, instead of having to stay in one country for five years as is now the rule.

''It will facilitate long-term residence ... You can accumulate, say three years in Italy and two years in France,'' Frattini told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in northern Italy.

''This is done exactly to prevent brain drain and to promote circular migration,'' he said.

''That's one of the differences between the European system and the American green card, with which you are not entitled to exit and re-enter. On the contrary, in Europe, there is this possibility,'' Frattini said.

The permit would not make it easier to obtain citizenship of an EU country, he added.

To qualify for a blue card valid for at least two years, a skilled migrant would need a two-year EU job contract guaranteeing a salary at least three times the minimum wage in that country plus health insurance, he said.

The proposal needs the approval of every EU state, which may prove difficult as it touches on some of the hottest political issues in Europe: equal labour and social security conditions for EU citizens and migrant workers.

REUTERS RSA RAI2127

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