A European policy on labour immigration

Faced with the famous American ‘Green Card,’ questions concerning the immigration policies of European states and further still the manner in which an immigration policy is developed in a supranational way deserves the very close attention of every citizen and researcher. Sonia Gsir has attempted to understand how a European Community wide and supranational discourse on immigration gets constructed.

Blue cardImmigration policies have for a long time been developed in a national framework by sovereign states, concerned to decide on the entrance and lengths of stay of foreign populations on their territory. Over the ten year journey which was necessary to arrive at an agreement, made concrete by the famous ‘Blue Card,’ the European Commission occupied an important position as an initiator of the legislation as it is the body which formulates it in the first instance. This initiative was followed by discussions and negotiations between the actors involved in the decision, in other words the member states. Whilst several amongst them demanded zero immigration and their wish was to deter and keep at a distance migrants from their territory, European integration has constituted an opportune arena which has enabled the development of an immigration policy which has progressively obliged the states to modify their legislation and their own immigration policies and to accept decisions made jointly within the European framework. When the Commission proposed ‘a common policy in terms of the controlled admission of migrant workers’ it was flagging up and asserting its autonomy as a supranational actor capable of forming ideas which are different to and independent of the member states. It was quite a liberal policy which the Commission recommended and it was only after ten years that the Council of the European Union adopted a preliminary directive on the subject of workers’ immigration which concerned only a specific category of migrants, those which can occupy a post which requires high qualifications. The final result would be the Council directive establishing the entrance and length of stay conditions for citizens of third party countries within the context of highly qualified employment.

In the doctorate thesis Sonia Gsir, a researcher at the CEDEM (Centre for Ethnic and Migration Studies) at the University of Liège’s Institute for Human and Social Sciences, tries to understand how the labour migration policy was developed in the European framework and how a discourse favourable to a new labour based immigration was developed in Europe. The research is principally based on semi-structured interviews with actors from European institutions and European civil society and a documentary corpus. The research is first and foremost focused on the major actors who are highly placed European officials, but it takes into account peripheral actors such as the European Parliament, the EESC (the European Economic and Social Committee), social partners and civil society. The analysis of the different phases of the procedure shows how there first of all emerged a European discourse of opening up within the European Commission which broke with the dominant public discourse of closure to labour immigration and which backed a Community wide approach to this immigration. She then explains how this discourse evolved and became transformed to develop a differentiated strategy approach to labour immigration which advocated a change of public policy. This change was made concrete by the 2008 adoption of the so called ‘Blue Card’ directive and a half-opening up the EU to work immigration.

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