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New approach to migration would establish agreements with EU neighbours and other countries to benefit the people and the countries concerned.

Cooperation on migration between the EU and other countries is already strong, but could be improved.

The need for better coordination was highlighted this year when the wave of migrants to EU shores during the Arab spring strained the ability of frontline countries to handle them.

The sudden influx led to proposals for a comprehensive approach to migration. Building on these, the Commission is now proposing a more strategic policy on migration and mobility, one which benefits the EU, source countries and migrants.

The plan calls for closer cooperation with non-EU countries to maximise these benefits. Poorer countries benefit from migration in two ways – from the money sent home by migrants, and through the transfer of know-how and innovation.

The EU would also work closely with non-EU countries to ensure refugees and displaced persons are fully protected under international law.

The plan would also address the EU's need for effective border controls to reduce illegal migration, encourage legal migration, and better protect victims of human trafficking.

It would align measures on migration and mobility with EU policies on external relations, development cooperation, education, growth and job creation.

Easier legal migration

The EU plans to give a stronger focus to legal migration and visa policies for short-term visitors, tourists, students, researchers, business people and families. The EU would offer to ease or lift visa restrictions when partner countries achieve agreed benchmarks, including in areas such as migration, asylum and border management.

Europe needs foreign workers to ensure prosperity. For example, by 2020 there will be an estimated shortage of about one million professionals in the health sector alone. Migrants can help fill these and other jobs.

Under the plan, the EU would continue to focus on establishing partnerships with neighbouring countries, those in Africa and in the east.

Migration partnerships would be offered first to countries in the immediate neighbourhood, including Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt.

These agreements would make sure legal migration is well organised, ensure effective and humane measures are taken to prevent irregular migration, and reinforce the benefits for everyone.

For other countries, the Commission proposes to increase the level of cooperation, based on a number of common aims and targets.

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