The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a new package of measures to strengthen the bloc's approach to legal migration, after some 5 million Ukrainian refugees have entered the EU since the Russian invasion.

Pilot project aimed at Ukrainians is part of the proposal.

The aim is not only to provide easier legal pathways for migrants and reduce illegal migration, but also to address labor shortages, especially in sectors such as health. As for the Ukrainians who came to the EU, and to whom the bloc temporarily granted full rights, the Commission's proposal includes a pilot project just for them.

On average, "between two and a half and three million legal migrants every year [arrive in] the European Union...compared to 150,000 to 200,000 who arrive irregularly", Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said during presentation of the package at a press conference. . “And we need them,” she added, due to labor shortages in many sectors. For example, according to the Commission, in the long-term care sector there are expected to be up to 7 million job vacancies for health professionals and social workers by 2030.

The proposal aims to reform two elements of the existing legislation:

The first change concerns the single permit which allows migrants to work and obtain residence. The process for obtaining this permit will be streamlined and shortened, the Commission said, as delays can deter employers from recruiting from abroad.

The second reform concerns the directive on long-term residence. So far this has been underused and the new proposal would allow third-country nationals to accumulate periods of residence in different Member States in order to meet the 5-year residence criteria needed to stay long-term, while improving the right to family reunification.

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The Commission's plan also includes the creation of a so-called EU Talent Pool, an EU-wide platform to connect employers with people who have the skills they cannot. find in the local job market.

He is also considering a pilot EU talent pool just for Ukrainians. There are also plans to launch 'talent partnerships' with third countries to improve access to work and training, with the aim of preventing smuggling and also improving cooperation with countries on returns and readmissions of those who arrived illegally. The first partnerships of this type are planned with countries in North Africa, notably Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, by the end of the year.

Legal migration is a competence shared between the EU and the Member States. The latest package of measures is part of a reform of asylum rules in the EU which the Commission presented in September 2020 - the so-called migration pact - but which was not agreed amid deep divisions between member states. However, Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, who was also on the podium on Wednesday, said this package "did not necessarily" have to be adopted at the same time as the other proposals on the table.

Humanitarian organisations, employers' associations and many left and center right political parties and figures have welcomed the proposal. But at the same time, "we don't expect this legal migration package to be the magic bullet that will solve irregular migration as a whole," said Jeroen Lenaers, an MEP from the conservative European People's Party, who also told POLITICO he liked a lot of the ideas in the package.

“Our best chance of finding a lasting solution is that the migration pact is already in the hands of the co-legislators and that is where we expect progress from member states,” he said.