Could British citizens benefit from a new EU long-term residence directive?

The new European Commission will review the EU directive on the status of third-country nationals, which will apply to British citizens living in or moving to the EU after Brexit. The move could guarantee more freedom of movement within the bloc.

The plan emerged at the hearing of EU Commissioner-designate Margaritis Schinas organised by the committees on employment and social affairs, culture and education, and civil liberties and home affairs. The Greek former MEP and EU official has been entrusted with the role of Vice-President for “Protecting our European way of life”. The portfolio includes a range of policies, from education, culture and sport to integration, migration and security.

During the discussion, British MEP Magid Magid argued that the only way in which integration can be achieved is through “guaranteeing equal rights, adequate support and a strong legal position for everyone living in the EU”. He then added: “We have long-term resident non-EU nationals obstructed from integration by labour market tests, including migrants and refugees. Are you willing to promote a true right of free movement starting from amending the long-term residence directive?”

Schinas responded that he is “very much willing to consider a legislative amendment of the long term residents legislation […] to address any obstacles so that legally residing citizens can have a chance to benefit from labour mobility across the EU.”

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The directive concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU was first approved in 2003. Under its provisions, a person who has lived legally in an EU member state for an uninterrupted period of five years can acquire long-term resident status and have equal rights in terms of access to employment and self-employment, education, social protection and, under certain conditions, free movement from one EU country to another. However, barriers remain especially regarding the access to the labour market.

The UK, Ireland and Denmark had opted out from the directive, which applies to anyone, irrespective of whether similar provisions are reciprocated in the country of origin.

During the hearing, Schinas also mentioned the revision of the directive on the Blue Card, an EU-wide work permit for high-skilled non-EU citizens. Further measures to be expected in the coming five years are a review of the migration pact, the expansion of the university exchange programme Erasmus+, of the European Solidarity Corps and of the DiscoverEU programme encouraging 18-year-olds to travel across Europe.

MEPs, however, heavily questioned the name given to Schinas’ portfolio, seen as toxic when associated to migration. Schinas explained that the name refers to a fair society, where everyone has equal rights, including on education, social welfare and healthcare. But MEPs of several groups requested that the name be dropped.

The hearings are part of the procedure to appoint the new European Commission. After the confidence vote in President Ursula von der Leyen in July, EU governments proposed candidates for the roles of EU Commissioners. Commissioners-designate are now assessed by the parliamentary committees relevant to their portfolios. The full College will have to obtain the confidence vote of the European parliament.

EU parliament committees have rejected over ethical concerns three Commissioners-designate, from France, Romania and Hungary. Therefore new appointments and hearings have to be arranged and as a result the new European Commission might not be able to take office as planned on November 1st.

Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.

Photo: Margaritis Schinas at the EU parliamentary committee hearing, by Vincent Van Doornick, Copyright © European Union 2019 – Source: EP.

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