On 17 November an informal agreement has been reached by the Council of the EU, the European Commission and the European Parliament on the revision of the directive for the entry of third-country nationals for the purpose of study, research, pupil exchange, traineeship, au pair.
The new directive establishes rules that aim to make it more attractive for non-EU students, researchers and interns to enter the EU. In addition the new directive also has provisions for volunteers under the European Volunteer Scheme, who will benefit from uniform conditions to enter Europe and increased protection once there.
However, the outcome is not what EFIL and the European Youth Forum have been advocating for in the last three years. In fact pupils and volunteers are not mandatory targets of the directive. No agreement could be reached for including favourable provisions for these targets and therefore they have been included as optional in the text of the legislation. Pupils and volunteers have been seen as minor compared to students, researchers and interns in terms of number and economical benefit. It is disappointing that the importance of intercultural exchanges is assessed by its economical advantage by Member states: the EU has missed a big opportunity.
Looking at the bright side, the new directive will now allow students and researchers to move within the EU during their stay by simply notifying the member state to which they are moving instead of having to submit a new visa application – positive news for young non-EU students wanting to do a semester in another EU country, for example.
The political agreement must now be approved by the Civil Liberties Committee and endorsed by Parliament as a whole and the Council of Ministers. The directive enters into force the day after its publication in the European Official Journal. After that, member states will have 2 years to transpose the new provisions into their national laws.
In the next two years it will be of key importance that AFS organisations in the EU make sure that their governments implement the optional provisions for volunteers and pupils when transposing the directive in national law.
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