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Pick and choose migrants for economic growth, EU ministers say

EU member states should target the economic migrants their labor markets need and convince them to integrate, EU finance ministers said Tuesday.

„Both highly-skilled and lower-skilled migration can contribute positively to the dynamism of the economy depending on the specific situation and needs of the recipient countries,” the ministers concluded during a monthly conference in Brussels. „An effective immigration policy should be closely aligned with skills related to labor market requirements,” their statement said. The ministers” comments come amidst debate over the creation of the so-called „Blue Card” - a proposed EU-wide work permit for skilled workers modeled on the US Green Card.

Europe is currently faced with the problem of an aging population, increasing pressure on public pension funds, and a shortage of workers in jobs ranging from construction to computer programming. Migration is seen as being a key component to overcoming the challenge, with ministers saying that it „has become an important factor in population growth in the EU and is the most dynamic source of population change.” But economic migration - both legal and illegal - is a highly sensitive political topic, with nationalists across Europe calling for strict controls on the flow of non-Europeans into the EU. And concerns over poorly-integrated minorities in states such as the UK, France and the Netherlands have led some politicians to call for a radical rethink of the way in which EU states attempt to bring their minorities into mainstream society.

„Realizing potential gains from immigration, especially in the medium term, depends crucially on the success of integration policies for the immigrant population, and on their efforts to integrate,” the ministers pointed out. Also at their Tuesday meeting, ministers were expected to debate reforms to the EU’s VAT laws and discuss the long-term economic impact of this summer’s banking turmoil and soaring oil prices. On Monday evening, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia warned that the combined impact of those events could drive economic growth in the euro zone below 2% next year. Initial forecasts had put growth at 2.5%. (m&