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India-Finland migration and mobility pact may face delays

New Delhi: Plans by India and Finland to sign a migration and mobility deal have hit the skids, according to persons aware of the matter.

Finland, which has a rapidly aging population, has tried to attract Indian students and professionals to live and work in the country. According to Finnish minister of employment Tuula Hataainen, India is the first country with which Finland plans to sign a migration and mobility agreement.

A joint declaration of intent to conclude this pact was the highlight of Hataainen’s visit to India in December.

However, complications related to European Union immigration law have posed an obstacle to an early conclusion of the agreement, say the persons cited above. These complications need to be ironed out at Finland’s end.

The country is a member of the European Union and part of visa-free Schengen Area, and therefore needs to conclude the agreement in accordance with those processes. Meanwhile, India’s preoccupation with G20 Presidency has also delayed an early agreement.

Queries to the ministry of external affairs and the Finnish ministry of economic affairs and employment went unanswered at press time.

Finland has moved aggressively to court Indian professionals and students. In an interview with Mint in December, Hataainen said Indian ICT, healthcare and services professionals were a particular target for Helsinki. The country hopes to double its intake of skilled migrants and triple foreign students in the years to come in order to replace its rapidly declining working age population.

Finland is home to around 15,000 Indian professionals and 1,300 students. In recent years, the country has made a series of legislative reforms to attract Indian talent. More generous student visa programs and post-study work visas are part of the changes. According to the persons cited above, Finnish universities are also planning to vastly expand their outreach to Indian students with a visit of university heads planned in recent months.

For India, which has a vast pool of professionals and students who work and study overseas, migration and mobility agreements are a priority. New Delhi has concluded such agreements with Germany, the UK and Austria. India also agreed to have a dialogue with Australia on a similar agreement in 2020. Migration and mobility partnerships tend to serve two purposes. First, they include provisions to allow easier movement of talent and professionals across borders. Second, they help settle pressing issues like illegal migration.

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