European interior ministers gave initial backing on Thursday to a fast-track scheme to attract highly skilled migrant workers from developing countries, hoping to compete with the US Green Card system.
The EU wants to be more competitive in a battle with other Western states for technology workers and hospital staff from the developing world, increasingly needed to plug labor gaps.
But diplomats said the ministers failed to agree when the “Blue Card” system would begin after the Czech Republic said it wanted existing curbs on the ability of workers from new EU states to work elsewhere in the bloc to be lifted first.
“There is agreement in principle about it,” German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters, adding that EU envoys would work on outstanding "technical details".
Spanish Labor and Immigration Minister Celestino Corbacho said he expected the scheme to be approved by year end.
The Blue Card will offer candidates speedier work permits, make it easier to find public housing, acquire long-term resident status and facilitate migrants' families to join them.
However analysts question whether it will achieve its goals because it only offers access to one state at a time, thus limiting the job opportunities open to would-be migrants.
After working in one EU state, candidates must apply for a new Blue Card if they move to another member state.
The US Green Card gives the holder the right to permanently live and work in the United States. (Reuters)