A setback for European competitiveness 🤦🏻‍♂️

Dear readers,
This was a sad week for migrants, but also for European competitiveness, as it seems that the fear of rising anti-migration populists has now also undermined a key labour migration law, the Long Term Residence Directive (LTRD).
This law was first adopted in 2003 and had not been updated since. However, after years of hard work and months of negotiations, the European Council (formed by the 27 EU capitals represented in it) has now unilaterally decided to cancel these negotiations for no apparent reason

How could this happen? Well, it’s a simple as this: One national government in particular threw all its negotiation power and size to build a blocking minority. As a result, it was successful in already delaying the negotiations of the law from September to December under the Spanish Presidency, and has now substantially undermined the Belgian efforts to reach an agreement. Sadly, the Belgian Presidency caved in to this pressure and did not even want to hold a final meeting to try to bridge the remaining gaps.

This is a huge setback from everyone that hoped Europe would finally understand the necessity to update its migration laws and become more attractive for international talent. But the real tragedy lies outside of the European Institutions:
  • First, for the millions of third-country nationals already living in Europe that would have enjoyed better rights and a chance for more European mobility, and also for all those considering coming to Europe and that now might decide against it. 
  • And second, for the thousands of businesses and start-ups that hoped that there would be easier procedures and less waiting times and who have been deprived of their chance to make Europe more competitive. 

After 5 years of working on this subject, I have heard over and over again how much Europe is in need of skills and talent to merely sustain its industries. When I talk to businesses, many don’t talk anymore about whether they can grow enough, they talk about the fact that they might shrink because they face labour shortages.

Sadly, some governments seem to be deaf to their industry, and would rather drive their economies into ruin than to understand how urgent we need to attract and retain talent. I would invite to all interior ministers to talk to their hotel, textile, and healthcare sectors to understand what is real going on. I really do not understand how so-called business friendly governments can cater to far-right propaganda in the fear of elections, which is exactly what the far-right wants. 

For me the next steps are clear: for the next mandate, we should take the labour migration out of the hands of interior ministers and transfer it to the ministry of the economy and labour. Otherwise I see little hope for a competitive Europe, looking at the current demographic trajectories. 

Despite this disappointing outcome, I will continue to push for labour migration, because our continent needs it.