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MEP Cecilia Wikström speaks out in favour of inclusive Visa regulations

January 6, 2015

On the occasion of the conference ‘Free Movement for Youth: Knocking Down the Barriers,’ MEP Cecilia Wikström, the Rapporteur in the European Parliament for the Directive on Conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of research, studies, pupil exchange, remunerated and unremunerated training, voluntary service and au pairing, released a written statement outlining the importance of an inclusive revision of the Visa Directive, one which will facilitate the entry of all young non-EU nationals into the EU for studies, training and volunteering.

Europe needs to be an attractive destination for people around the world. Europe today has the oldest population in the world and we are only getting older. Workforce form third countries are essential for our societies and welfare systems to work. But complicated bureaucracy and scepticism towards immigrants scare people away.

It is important to improve the situation with clearer and simplified rules in order to increase the attractiveness of the EU. More foreign students, researchers and international scholars will lead to economic growth, spur innovation and lead to more jobs in the long term.

I very much welcomed the Commission proposal that is designed to address shortcomings and weaknesses that was found from the implementation reports. We need clearer and harmonised conditions for entry and stay and reasonable deadlines for processing the applications. Students should also have increased access to the labour market and increased intra EU mobility. It is also important to mention that the rules that are today optional for school pupils, volunteers and trainees are suggested to be made mandatory.

There was a broad support in the European Parliament for the Commission proposal, but even further improvements were introduced. These included extending the possibility to remain and apply for jobs to 18 months and further lowering the deadlines for applications. It is also important to point out that among all the amendments that were tabled in LIBE, not a single one called for a change of the scope. The Parliament fully backed the Commission proposal to include all categories and make the rules mandatory.

Since there was no prospect of finding an agreement with the Council before the European elections, we decided to formally adopt our first reading position in February this year. We are still waiting for the Council for finalise their position in order to enter negotiations, and we are concerned with the development in the Council where it seems several member states would be in favour of deleting the additional categories and only keep students and researchers. The Parliament will not support that approach as it reduces the added value of this new proposal. There are many cases of exploitation of young people and we need to have clear and simple rules for them in all member states, otherwise they will chose to go to some other part of the world.

I sincerely hope that we can find an agreement on this directive in not too long and that the result will make young people all over the world feel welcomed and wanted in Europe, because we need them!

– Cecilia Wikström, MEP


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