Author: Kakha Gogolashvili, Senior Fellow, Rondeli Foundation
According to the MFA, the French National Assembly ratified the agreement (signed in 2013) on the Residence and Circular Migration of Skilled Professionals with Georgia on December 19. France is the only country establishing an institutionalized circular migration scheme with Georgia from among the 16 EU Member State signatories of the EU-Georgia Mobility Partnership declaration (2009).
This Agreement provides a temporary residence permit for Georgian citizens wanting to study and gain professional experience in France and envisages the employment of up to 500 Georgian citizens and 150 quotas for young researchers. Both sides already work on practical aspects of the agreement – identification of the need for professionals on the French labor market, the selection of relevant specialists in Georgia and other technical issues.
The German Government is unilaterally working on a law (following Merkel’s June 2018 visit to Georgia) to set a legal employment quota for Georgian labor migrants.
Every year, three-to-four thousand Georgian citizens try to stay in EU Member States (MS), looking for a (usually illegal) job. If each of the 16 EU MS as signatories of the Mobility Partnership with Georgia provides the country with a yearly quota of a few hundred migrants for legal circular employment, it could significantly lower the above-mentioned number of citizens striving to stay there illegally.
What Does Circular Migration Mean?
Migrants fill supply gaps on labor markets in receiving states, correct structural imbalances, stimulate economic growth and generate welfare. The effect of emigration on poverty in developing countries is mainly positive but sometimes damaging (brain drain, Dutch Disease). In developed countries, immigration may cause a number of problems – illegal migration, human trafficking and corruption. Circular migration helps to eradicate such negative forms of labor mobility. EU documents define it as a “form of migration that is managed in a way allowing some degree of legal mobility back and forth between two countries.” It is also recognized as best contributing to economic growth, preventing brain drain and other negative consequences for a source country.
The EU’s proper competence in the sphere of labor migration is quite limited. Consequently, the Mobility Partnership aims at forging bilateral cooperation agreements and circular migration schemes bilaterally with member states. All EaP countries, save Belarus, have signed mobility partnerships with the EU but very few of them have yet to develop any circular migration scheme. Georgia worked hard to fulfil the commitments transposed to the Georgia-EU Mobility Partnership from the EC Communication on Mobility and Circular Migration (2007) and has been long ready for further negotiation on circular migration schemes with Member States.
Development of a Partnership on Migration
The Mobility Partnership aims at promoting a framework for legal mobility to establish “circular and temporary” labor migration schemes with legal employment to reduce the risks of illegal migration and the danger of trafficking in human beings. The EU has a common policy on circular migration which includes:
– Ensuring the effective return of nationals to their state of origin;
– Monitoring circular migration;
– Reducing the risk of brain drain;
– Establishing partnerships with third countries;
– Stimulating the signing of bilateral agreements on circular migration;
– Raising awareness of potential migrants on legal opportunities for study and work in the EU, the labor market situation;
– Improving consular services, asylum for migrants, etc;
– Facilitating the return of migrants to the country of origin and assisting in their reintegration;
– Improving border cooperation with the EU;
– Implementing readmission agreements;
– Participating in “visa dialogue,” “cooperation platforms” and support of community agencies – FRONTEX and ETF.
Georgia has already achieved the majority of the afore-mentioned “conditions” and goals as a result of the Visa Dialogue and Visa Liberalization Action Plan implementation.
Where Does Georgia Stand?
Georgia works on signing agreements, cooperation schemes and projects aimed at obtaining residence/working permit quotas from these countries and is exploring the demand/supply possibilities in the sending/receiving states. Apart from France, a few other MS have agreed to negotiate similar agreements with Georgia – Germany, Portugal, Greece, and Bulgaria. Consultations are being held with Poland. Recently, the State Commission for Migration Issues of Georgia has released a study assessing the demand for labor in the EU and Georgia’s potential to supply specialists. Nurses and food specialists are in deficit in Georgia proper. There is potential for engineers, IT specialists and technicians but they still need requalification which is costly. Craftsmen and truck drivers match well for circular migration in many EU countries. The majority of them still need requalification but this is easier and not expensive for these particular spheres. Some of the EU states are producing an annual list of those professions which are in demand. The policy can be tailored in conformity to these professions. According to the above-mentioned study, Georgia’s labor supply potential best fits with countries such as Austria, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Finland, Sweden and Croatia. With some of these countries, circular migration schemes have been established but it is important to convince other governments to sign circular migration agreements with Georgia.
Where Does the Cooperation on Mobility Partnerships Stand?
There is cooperation on the improvement of the skills of potential migrants through education and training, the reintegration of migrants through the development of projects supporting the employment of returned migrants, the utilization of the skills they acquired abroad and in helping them to better manage their savings, etc. The MFA is responsible for promoting international cooperation, including with the EU MS. The Ministry of Labor and Health and Social Affairs, National Investment Agency and Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency are dealing with the reintegration of returned migrants and supporting migrants abroad. A number of successful projects are functioning in cooperation with the German, Polish and Estonian governments and other MS. All of them are mainly canalized through the IOM. The majority of projects prove that the actual interest of the EU MS is still rather focused on the return and reintegration of Georgian migrants than promoting their legal employment on the EU’s markets.
The fearful attitudes of EU citizens towards the liberalization of migrant mobility make European governments cautious to keep their respective actions at a low speed. The benefits of immigration, known to economists, decision-makers and analysts alike, are rarely explained to the population while the negative impact of immigration is widely spread in the extreme right/left wing party politician discourse throughout Europe, elevating political barriers to legal migration.
The efforts of the Georgian Government to sign bilateral agreements with the EU MS to obtain preferences/opportunities have yet to bring results. Georgia needs to make extensive diplomatic efforts to convince the EU MS to institutionalize circular migration schemes and favorable “quotas” for entry and work.