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EU may introduce migrant green cards

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The European Commission is looking at a range of immigration reforms to deal with Europe's severe shortage of workers the Financial Times newspaper reports.

An ideas paper published by the European Commission on January 11 proposes measures ranging from fast-track immigration to deal with short-term labor shortages, to a longer-term solution for attracting workers similar to the American green card.

The paper also mentions the possibility of issuing work/residence permits valid for the entire EU so that skilled workers can move around more easily. Although common policies on immigration and asylum are developing between the EU member states, many issues are still controlled at the national level.

Commission representatives stress that the paper is currently just a discussion document and that stringent immigration controls will be maintained in the EU.

"It does not open the door to unrestricted economic migration to the EU," said Franco Frattini, the EU Justice Commissioner.

Immigration is a highly sensitive issue in the EU. There is anti-immigrant sentiment in many countries, but ageing populations across the 25 member block make it imperative that new workers be brought in. However, at the present level of immigration from 2010 to 2030 there will be a decline of 20 million in the number of working-age people in the EU.

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