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January 2013, Volume 20, Number 1

France, Germany, Benelux

France. There were five million migrants in France at the end of 2010. The leading countries of origin were Algeria, Morocco and Portugal. Some 66,000 foreigners became French citizens in 2011.

Some 750,000 industrial jobs have disappeared in France over the past decade. Beginning in 2013, payroll taxes were reduced and the main value-added tax raised from 19.6 to 20 percent to recoup the lost revenue. For a worker earning 2.5 times the minimum wage of E9.40 an hour, employers save about six percent in social security charges, which the government hopes will encourage hiring. The French economy is expected to grow slightly in 2012 and 2013.

The New York Times on December 3, 2012 reported on the so-called floating generation in France, university degree holders who cannot find career jobs. Many take a series of internships and short-term contracts hoping to land a "regular" job. In 2012, over 80 percent of new hires had temporary contracts.

The Socialist government elected in 2012 is reducing unemployment insurance benefits for all workers, but especially for migrants. EU citizens in France will have their benefits reduced from E2,000 per adult per month to E500. The government also raised the income tax on incomes over E1 million to 75 percent, prompting actor Gerard Depardieu to move to Belgium (he also became a citizen of Russia, which has a maximum 15 percent tax rate).

Germany. Germany's economic growth in 2012 drew migrants from other EU countries. The unemployment rate, which began the year above 7.3 percent, ended the year at 6.7 percent.

Over 500,000 people moved to Germany in the first six months of 2012, mostly from southern European countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain.

Germany's Blue Card program (www.bluecard-eu.de/eu-blue-card-germany) began in August 2012, offering four-year work and residence permits to foreigners with university degrees and their families if they have job offers from German employers that pay them at least E35,000 to E45,000 a year, depending on whether their occupation is deemed to have labor shortages. Spouses of Blue Card holders can work without their German employers having to test the labor market for German workers. After a minimum of 21 months, Blue Card holders can become permanent residents of Germany if they can pass a German language test.

Foreigners with university degrees may obtain six-month visas to enter Germany and search for a job.

On a visit to Germany on October 31, 2012, the Turkish prime minister complained that the EU was dragging its feet on Turkey's bid to join the EU. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "No other country has been kept waiting, knocking on the door of the EU, for such a long time." Turkey has been in accession talks with the EU since 2005, and Erdogan hinted that Turkey would not seek to join the EU if not granted entry by 2023.