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Circular migration and mobility partnerships 

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Circular migration and mobility partnerships 

The Commission suggests setting up mobility partnerships and organising circular migration to facilitate the movement of third‑country nationals between their countries and the European Union (EU). The mechanisms would alleviate the shortage of labour in the EU, check the phenomenon of illegal immigration and allow the countries of origin to benefit from the positive impacts of emigration.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 16 May 2007 on circular migration and mobility partnerships between the European Union and third countries [COM(2007) 248 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


This communication focuses on two aspects: mobility partnerships and circular migration. Regarding the first aspect, the Commission is planning exploratory contacts with a series of countries potentially interested. Regarding the second aspect, it is planning to launch a consultation process lasting at least three months.

Mobility partnerships

The Commission proposes that the European Community (EC) negotiates mobility partnerships with third countries with a view to enabling their citizens to have better access to the European Union (EU). These partnerships would involve third countries determined to cooperate with the EU in the management of migration flows, including by fighting illegal immigration.

Each partnership would come under the general framework of external relations with the third country concerned. It would be tailored to the ambitions of the parties to the agreement and the level of commitments that this third country is prepared to take on.

Concerning the content of the partnership, the Commission lists a whole series of possible commitments by the third country, such as readmission of its own nationals and third‑country nationals who crossed its territory before arrival in the EU, organisation of targeted information campaigns to discourage illegal immigrants, strengthening of border controls and stepping up of the fight against fraudulent documents.

For its part, the EU could allow nationals from the countries concerned greater possibilities for mobility to the EU, with due regard for the competences of the Member States. These possibilities could include:

Circular migration

The Commission indicates that the two main forms of circular migration which could be most relevant in the EU context are:

  • that of third‑country nationals residing in the EU, such as business people from third countries working in the EU and wishing to start an activity in their country of origin or in another third country;
  • that of third‑country nationals established outside the EU, such as nationals wishing to engage in seasonal or temporary work within the EU or to study there before returning to their country.

The Commission points out that harmonisation of national legislation could improve circular migration. It states that components of a European legislative framework have already been considered in the Policy Plan on legal migration, such as the proposal for a Directive on the admission of highly skilled migrants.

New measures could be considered to supplement the Policy Plan on legal migration, such as the adaptation of Directive 2003/109/EC concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents.

A number of incentives could be built into EU policy instruments to promote circularity, for example:

  • support for the job search or for setting up businesses to facilitate the re‑integration of migrants returning to their country of origin;
  • a written commitment by migrants to return voluntarily to their countries of origin once their contract expires;
  • the conclusion and implementation of readmission arrangements to ensure the effective return of the national in the case of an illegal stay within EU territory;
  • the establishment of criteria to monitor circular migration programmes.

The Commission also suggests the adoption of measures to reduce the risk of brain drain. To this end, it suggests, for example, commitments by Member States not to recruit third‑country nationals in sectors indicated by a country as being under stress.

Finally, it adds that bilateral agreements could be concluded between these countries and the Member States interested. For example, these agreements could contain provisions granting scholarships for "circular" students.


This communication follows on from the communications entitled "Migration and Development: some concrete orientations" of 1 September 2005 and "The Global Approach to Migration one year on" of 31 November 2006 and the communication on a Policy Plan on legal migration of 21 December 2005.

Last updated: 10.08.2007