Polis Brief N° 28 – Towards balance, coherence and complementarity in European labour migration policy

In recent years, migration politics and policymaking in the EU has been overly focused on irregular migration and asylum. A nearly exclusive policy focus on reinforcing ‘Fortress Europe’ to keep people out is unsustainable and undesirable. A shift in policy focus to offering legal pathways to much-needed labour migrants from third countries to enter the EU is highly necessary, because 1) there is a significant and increasing shortage in the EU’s workforce; 2) given fundamental economic disparities globally, a strong pull effect of the EU to third country migrants is likely to remain; and 3) the EU is losing the ‘global competition for talent’.

The EU’s current labour migration policy, constituted by three directives, is fragmentary and ineffective. This can be blamed on various fundamental constraints that prohibit the Commission to work towards this policy field’s harmonisation – most importantly, the country-specificity of migration policy, which is characterized by an intergovernmental logic. Therefore, the EU has to abstain from full harmonisation and instead aim to complement rather than substitute Member States’ legislation according to the principle of subsidiarity.


By Niels Schattevoet





Niels Schattevoet is a Master’s student in European Foreign Affairs at Sciences Po Paris. Before he studied International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. He is focused on Europe’s geopolitical actorness and foreign policy towards the Middle East and North Africa, with challenges such as migration, conflict, human rights violations and terrorism.


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