Pandemic has underlined need for more legal migration for low-paid work, say MEPs

Deputies have demanded new legal ways for people to come and work in the EU, including instruments enabling legal migration for medium and low-paid employment.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

13 Apr 2021

The health crisis, which has led to a third lockdown in some Member States, was discussed by members of Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Members said that in the short-term measures should include a “broader” set of rules for people seeking to come to the EU to work.

S&D MEP Sylvie Guillaume said there was a need for more legal channels as a means of fighting the exploitation of migrant workers and precarious employment.

Guillaume, rapporteur on the report on “New Avenues for Legal Labour Migration”, said, “Do you think our societies would have been as resilient without care workers, healthcare staff or cleaners and helpers over the past year? Migrant workers have made up a significant proportion of the brave and dedicated key workers that have allowed essential services to carry on in these difficult times.”

“The pandemic has highlighted the enormous contribution that workers, and especially lower-paid workers, make to society every day. It has proven the need for more EU-wide legal ways for people to come and work in the EU.”

“As we come out of the pandemic, seasonal and migrant workers will also play a huge role in Europe’s recovery. It is good news that there is widespread support in the Parliament for new EU legislative tools for legal labour migration and now it is time for the Commission to come forward with its proposals.”

“The pandemic has highlighted the enormous contribution that workers, and especially lower-paid workers, make to society every day … As we come out of the pandemic, seasonal and migrant workers will also play a huge role in Europe’s recovery” Sylvie Guillaume, S&D

The pandemic will again take centre-stage this week for MEPs who face a packed programme after returning from the Easter break.

Later on Tuesday, members will take a detailed look at the proposed Digital Green Certificate, the aim of which is to ensure the freedom of movement within the EU during the pandemic.

Commissioner for justice Didier Reynders will present the plan tabled on 17 March, which the Commission hopes to introduce for the start of Europe’s summer tourism season.

The Certificate would constitute proof that a person has either been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result, or already recovered from the disease. The document should be free, and available in digital or paper format, says the Commission.

The debate will also include the possibility of introducing a certificate for third-country nationals staying in the EU during the pandemic.

Jeroen Lenaers, EPP group spokesman on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affair, said, “The setting-up of such a certificate will harmonise diverging document formats, not only regarding a person’s vaccination status, but also on tests and possible recovery from COVID-19.”

“It is essential to restart the economy, save Europe’s summer and create jobs, after months of economic slowdown due to the pandemic.”

In order to assess the data protection implications of the proposed certificate, MEPs will also hold a debate on Tuesday with the European Data Protection Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski.

During the 24 March plenary debate with Commission and Council representatives, a majority of MEPs supported the swift creation of the certificate, but many emphasised the need for strong data protection safeguards on personal and medical data.

MEPs also warned that those who have not been vaccinated must not face discrimination.

Elsewhere, on Thursday, S&D trade coordinator Kathleen van Brempt will lead discussions on her report on trade-related aspects and implications of COVID-19 in the committee on international trade.

The MEP said her group is committed “to reforming traditional trade policy in light of the challenges we face, making it sustainable and fair for all.”

Also on Thursday, the Environment and Public Health Committee will discuss a new procedure to facilitate and accelerate the EU-wide approval of adapted vaccines against COVID-19 variants.

On Wednesday, the Commission will come forward with a new strategy on eradicating human trafficking.

In a statement, the Socialist group said, “After 10 years of the EU’s anti-trafficking directive, we believe it is time to revise the rules to better prevent and prosecute human trafficking in Europe.”

On Thursday, Parliament’s “Rights Monitoring Group” will debate the Polish government's “persistent” attacks on judicial independence in Poland.

Members will question two judges, Igor Tuleya of the Warsaw District Court, and Waldemar Żurek, a former spokesman of the National Judiciary Council, which was dissolved before the end of its term.

Among those attending will also be Małgorzata Gersdorf, a former President of Poland’s Supreme Court. After the Disciplinary Chamber lifted judge Tuleya’s immunity last year, he is no longer able to work and risks imprisonment.

In a statement, the EPP Group said, “We welcome the recent decision of the European Commission to refer Poland to the European Court of Justice to protect judicial independence, but Europe must continue to keep up the pressure. To defend the rule of law, one of Europe's fundamental values, we must stand up for all independent judges. Polish judges are European judges.”

Also on Thursday, the Special committee on Beating Cancer will discuss ways to improve the sharing of knowledge, expertise and data on cancer research across the EU, a move welcomed by EPP leader Manfred Weber.

He said, “We need to pool resources, efforts, data and money to step up prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The only reason that we are not more effective at beating cancer today is that we don’t work together enough in Europe.”

On the same day, a European Citizens’ initiative (ECI) for an EU-wide ban on keeping farmed animals in cages will be debated in a public hearing by MEPs, Commissioners, experts, representatives of other EU bodies, and the organisers of the ECI, which has secured almost 1.4 million signatories.

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