BRUSSELS (AP) — Despite the European Union's economic woes and high unemployment, the bloc will need to attract more migrants in the coming years to fill the jobs of the future, a senior official said Friday.
Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom unveiled a package of programs that she said would make it easier for legal migrants to enter the EU, helping them get visas faster or, in some cases, eliminate the need for them altogether.
And she said the measures would help them find jobs in the EU that match their skills and make it cheaper for them to send money to family members back home — a major source of income for some poorer countries.
Unemployment across the European Union now is about 9.5 percent, meaning that 22.5 million workers are without jobs. But Europe's population is getting older and there will not be enough people to fill certain skilled jobs, Malmstrom said.
"It is evident that labor migration will be a part of all our societies in the future," she said.
"To ensure prosperity, Europe must become a more attractive destination in the global competition for talent," an explanatory paper issued by her office said. It reported that 62 percent of Europe's population growth last year came from migration.
Mats Persson, the director of a think tank called Open Europe, said Malmstrom's demographic analysis is correct: Europe will need not just skilled workers, but "workers, period."
Still, he said the commissioner would find her proposals a tough sell.
"I think it's going to be very difficult for Malmstrom to push this through," Persson said. "It will be perceived as making it easier for immigrants to come to Europe, that it will make it easier for people to come here and take our jobs."
Malmstrom, though, said globalization required well-managed migration — and it is essential in some employment areas.
"Over the next two or three years, the European Union as a whole will need about 2 million people in the health sector, for example, doctors and nurses," she said. "We know that some specific countries need engineers, they need IT specialists and so on."
She also said the EU was establishing partnerships with Tunisia and Morocco to manage migration and hoped to establish them with Egypt and Libya. These partnerships would concentrate on easing legal migration and also involve cooperation on stopping illegal migration and trafficking, she said.
Resource centers in those countries will focus on the needs of migrants and on matching them with jobs in the EU.
A website launched Friday, the EU Immigration Portal, now provides information for foreign citizens interested in moving to the EU. People from different countries can click on why they want to enter the EU and in which country they want to work or study, and find the requirements, regulations and other information.
Don Melvin can be reached at http://twitter.com/Don_Melvin