European Union: immigration rule will narrow gap between EU and non-EU citizens

The European Union's top justice official said Thursday that a new rule allowing non-EU citizens with several years of residency to freely travel and work in other European Union countries would help bridge differences between EU citizens and legal immigrants.

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said the new rule, which takes effect in January, would apply to "non-EU workers who live more than five years" legally in an EU member country.

There will be some requirements. For example, longtime residents who want to live and work in another EU country would have to prove they have enough resources so as not to burden the other country.

The new rule "will be a symbolic application of a principle in which I personally believe," Frattini told a news conference. "If we want to realize common rights for citizens who work legally, one of the principle rights is that of circulating and working where you want."

The new rule will help "reduce this sense of difference of belonging to a minor league" on the part of non-EU residents, Frattini said, using a soccer analogy.

Two years ago, justice and home affairs ministers of the EU member states agreed on a draft directive designed to grant EU status of long-term resident to third-country nationals who have legally resided for at least five years in the territory of a member state, reported AP.

EU member nations have until Jan. 26, 2006, to convert the directive into national law. P.T.

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