Work should press ahead on the establishment of EU rules on the minimum criminal sanctions that should be handed out to employers of illegal immigrants, according to EU heads of state and government, despite known reservations in Council regarding the European Commission's original proposal.

The proposals were criticised by Germany during the December meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council. A Commission official also confirmed to Europolitics, on 14 December, that there is a problem in Council concerning the proposal. Nevertheless, EU leaders have requested, in a set of conclusions adopted at the European Council, that agreement be reached between the European Parliament and Council on the proposed directive by the end of 2008.

No similar timetable has been set out, however, for work on the Commission's recent proposal for a blue card' scheme to attract highly skilled workers to the EU. The conclusions state only that the Council should make progress on the dossier. The same has been said of the recent Commission proposal for a directive establishing basic socio-economic rights for all legal migrants.

The conclusions also stress a desire to press ahead with the further development of the common European asylum system. The Commission is invited to present initiatives in 2008, with the aim that they will be adopted by the institutions by the end of 2010.

Looking ahead, the leaders state that they await with interest the publication of communications by the Commission concerning the creation of an entry-exit scheme at the EU's external borders, the future development of the Frontex agency...

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