PublishedJanuary 19, 2011

EPC Debates Non-EU Skilled Worker Transfers

In July 2010 the European Commission proposed a new Directive for the “Intra-Corporate Temporary Transfer of Non-EU Skilled Workers”. The proposal’s aim is to facilitate for multinational companies the temporary transfer of third-country national skilled workers from a company located outside the EU to branches or subsidiaries within the EU.

The European Policy Centre (EPC), an independent, not-for-profit think tank committed to European integration, organized a policy dialogue on 11th January 2011. The panel was composed of Maria Åsenius, Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Malmström, Ameet Nivsakar, Vice President of NASSCOM, John Monks, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Jan Mulder, Member of European Parliament, and Karl Cox, Vice President of Oracle responsible for public policy and corporate affairs. The panel debate was moderated by Erika Mann (Executive Vice President CCIA) in her role as Vice President of the EPC’s Advisory Council.

Ms. Åsenius outlined the political and economic background of the Commission’s proposal. In the light of Europe’s increasing demand for skilled workers and its negative demographic development, the proposed Directive is seen as a positive step in facing these challenges and in meeting the goals of the EU’s 2020 Strategy.

The Commission’s proposal was well received by industry representatives. By highlighting the bureaucratic hurdles multinational companies face when they wish to transfer their staff from countries outside the EU to their EU-based establishments, they applauded the Commission’s aim to reduce these obstacles.

The proposal was welcomed by MEP Jan Mulder (Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) who is the shadow rapporteur (a shadow rapporteur is an MEP who works on behalf of his political group for a specific committee for a specific subject) for this initiative.The lead rapporteur is Salvatore Iacolino, he will very likely present a draft report in the first half of 2011 as the European Parliament and the Member States are expected to discuss the proposal within this timeframe.

John Monks for ETUC criticized the broad scope of the proposal and pointed to problems that could arise from the employee definitions, the alleged lack of appropriate control-mechanisms and he thinks that the Blue Card scheme adopted in 2009 should provide sufficient mechanisms for intra-corporate employee transfers.

The Commission’s decision to opt for a Directive, as opposed to a Regulation, was generally considered as appropriate although a Regulation would provide for greater harmony across the 27 EU-Member States. Member States will be responsible for the setting of national quotas, which will automatically lead to very different levels of quotas. By the way, a Regulation, which is directly applicable in the Member States and does not require any implementing measures, would most likely not find sufficient support.

The Commission’s aim in bringing out a new Directive is to lay down a common set of rules and procedures to be followed by Member States as soon as they allow the entry of third country nationals.

The Commission’s initiative on intra-corporate transferees is to be seen separately from the discussion which takes place inside the Free Trade Agreement negotiating process between the EU and India.

It is important for policymakers, whether in the EU or in the U.S., to understand how the new global economy necessitates the timely movement of labor across borders, and to take action to facilitate companies’ ability to compete and innovate in such an environment.

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