The European Commission proposed steps to encourage immigration to offset a predicted decline in working-age Europeans over the next 20 or 30 years.
The proposals include a raft of measures including multiple-entry permits for seasonal workers, faster residency rights for high-skilled workers, improving nations' ability to integrate newcomers and programs to educate would-be legal migrants of their rights after they leave their home countries.
The European Commission said as the EU lacks a coherent approach to immigration a disproportionate number of skilled workers immigrate to the United States, Canada and Australia instead of Western Europe.
EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini told at a news conference he had proposed multiyear, multiple-entry permits that would encourage seasonal workers to return home after because they know they can come back legally.
Frattini said the aim was not to have the European Commission set national immigration quotas, an idea fiercely resisted in Germany.
He said he proposed EU governments agree within three years on common standards for judging immigration needs, processing applications and admitting immigrants.
Driving the proposal are predictions the EU's workforce could shrink by as many as 20 million workers between 2010-2030.
Demographic projections indicate the EU's population growth until 2025 will be largely due to net migration as total deaths will start to outnumber total births in 2010, according to the European Commission, the AP reports.