Brussels wants legal migrants to fill labour shortages

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Good morning. A scoop to start: The EU wants Denmark to step up controls of — and possibly detain — Russian oil tankers suspected of breaching the west’s oil price cap, as part of new measures designed to better enforce the sanctions.

Today, Laura reveals Brussels’ plans to use legal migrants to fill the EU’s labour shortages, even as capitals call for tighter controls on irregular entries, and our trade correspondent explains the plan to combat Europe’s rampant honey fraud.

Pooling workers

Brussels wants to prop up the EU’s tight labour market by facilitating legal migration from countries outside the bloc, writes Laura Dubois.

Context: European governments have announced more drastic measures to curb migration as the number of arrivals has increased. But at the same time, the bloc is lacking workers, with shortages in sectors such as construction, healthcare, tech and engineering shackling economies.

The European Commission hopes to fill some of those gaps by making it easier for people from non-EU countries to apply for jobs.

Today, the commission will propose to set up a “talent pool” that would help connect workers outside the EU with employers inside, focusing on sectors in which workers are needed the most, such as industries affected by the green and digital transitions.

The online platform would be based on a similar one that already exists for workers within the EU, according to a draft of the proposal seen by the FT.

“The EU talent pool is designed to help member states address skill gaps and labour shortages, where they can’t be addressed domestically or in the EU,” said Ylva Johansson, commissioner for migration.

The participation of member states is voluntary, as they have a final say on immigration to their territory. But a number of EU countries such as Germany, Italy and Greece have already said they want to make it easier for foreign workers to come and work on their territory.

The EU’s employment rate was at a record high last year of almost 75 per cent, and its unemployment rate historically low at around 6 per cent. Meanwhile, almost 3 per cent of jobs remained vacant, and the vacancy rate was even higher in countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and the Czech Republic.

The commission will also push for further agreements to foster legal migration with third countries, which the EU has already clinched with the likes of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Tunisia.

All this is part of an effort to prod member states towards creating more legal avenues for migration and give people from countries with a low chance of receiving asylum in the EU an opportunity to come and work legally, as the bloc negotiates a reform that will address irregular migration.

“It would help people avoid the desperate risks entailed in crossing the Mediterranean,” Johansson said. “Better legal migration options, like the talent pool are safer, they are transparent, and they are targeted.”

The package the commission will present today also makes recommendations on how member states should recognise foreign qualifications.

Chart du jour: Confidence in Ukraine

Bar chart of % of respondents in each geography showing Likelihood that within the next 5 years, Ukraine wins the war

European populations are not confident Ukraine can win the war against Russia in the next five years — and less confident than Americans — finds a survey released today by the European Council on Foreign Relations focused on US and Chinese power and global geopolitics.

Honey laundering

EU countries have agreed to crack down on honey fraud over fears that mixing honey with syrup imported from China and other countries is cheating consumers and putting domestic beekeepers out of business, writes Andy Bounds.

Context: Almost half the imported honey tested by the European Commission this year broke EU rules, as it was blended with ingredients such as sugar syrups, colourings and water. Slovenia in 2020 started a campaign to better regulate the €2.3bn market.

Yesterday, member state representatives backed a proposal to label honey by its country of origin, rather than simply by whether it comes from the EU or not. Manufacturers will also have to indicate the top four countries where the highest share of ingredients comes from.

They also asked the commission to come up with a testing method to check imports comply with the bloc’s rules, according to documents seen by the FT.

The changes are a revision of the so-called “breakfast directive” which sets marketing and quality standards for fruit juices, jams and the like.

They are likely to be agreed by the European parliament, whose position is similar to that of the member states, and then become law within the next few months.

“The mandate to start negotiations with the parliament is an important step in improving consumer information on honey blends,” said an EU diplomat.

“It is also a step towards having a more level playing field for EU beekeepers and ensuring EU shoppers get only the highest honey quality.”

What to watch today

  1. European Commission presents its autumn economic forecast.

  2. EU general affairs ministers meet.

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