This week's unveiling by the EU Commission of its plans on legal migration has provided some welcome food for thought following last weeks grubby haggling over money matters. Though nothing legislative is on the table yet, we can expect no less than five Directives by 2009.

Most ambitious of all, the Commission favours introducing an EU green card system for highly-skilled non-EU workers, whereby a work permit issued by one member states would allow them work anywhere in the Union.

Justice, Freedom and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini should be applauded for his courage in tackling head on an issue his predecessor Antonio Vitorino dodged somewhat, knowing what a hornets' nest it stirred up in the member states.

The current fragmented labour market can lead to strange situations - for example, an employer may be able to recruit an IT expert from India but if that same IT person is already legally working in another member state, they may be off-limits.

But in wanting to compete with the United States and Canada in attracting the world's brightest and best, Europe also needs to watch out for the pitfalls of a more liberal approach.

Workers in the new member states are still mostly barred from the old member states' markets so it does not seem fair - or even legal - to open the floodgates to non-EU workers while this situation...

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