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Policy plan on asylum
This policy plan provides the road-map for completing the second phase of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). It is based on a three-pronged strategy that focuses on the harmonisation of protection standards, practical cooperation and solidarity.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 17 June 2008 – Policy Plan on Asylum: An integrated approach to protection across the EU [COM(2008) 360 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This communication presents the policy plan for the completion of the second phase in the creation of a Common European Asylum System (CEAS). The plan is based on a three-pronged strategy for attaining the objectives of CEAS, which are:
- guaranteeing access to asylum for those who need it;
- providing a common asylum procedure;
- creating a uniform status for asylum and for subsidiary protection;
- taking into consideration gender issues and the situation of vulnerable groups;
- enhancing cooperation between European Union (EU) countries on practical issues;
- providing for rules to determine EU countries’ responsibilities and for mechanisms to support solidarity;
- guaranteeing coherence between asylum and other policies relating to international protection.
Improved and harmonised standards of international protection
While the first phase in creating CEAS made significant progress with regard to legislative instruments, the desired level playing field has not been achieved and great disparities in the implementation of asylum policies in EU countries persist. Hence, the Commission aims to amend existing legislation, namely the:
- Reception Conditions Directive (RCD), by addressing the great level of discretion EU countries enjoy. An amended RCD should provide for the further harmonisation and improvement of reception standards, including procedural guarantees on detention;
- Asylum Procedures Directive (ADP), in order to eliminate disparate procedural arrangements in EU countries. Aligning these procedures will guarantee equivalent conditions for access to protection in the EU;
- Qualification Directive (QD), to tackle the different interpretations of the directive by EU countries due to the wording of certain provisions. An amended version of the QD will also promote the introduction of uniform statuses.
In addition to amending existing legislation, the Commission will also consider the creation of new instruments. This will include mechanisms for the transfer of protection. Furthermore, the alignment of national statuses of protection that are not covered by the current EU framework will be examined.
Effective and supported practical cooperation
As a result of a low level of uniformity in standards and differing national practices, asylum decisions within the EU are taken in an inconsistent manner and the chances of being granted protection vary enormously from one EU country to another. Consequently, practical cooperation between EU countries needs to be stepped up at the same time as legislation is harmonised. The establishment of a European Asylum Support Office (EASO), as proposed in the Hague Programme and in the Green Paper of 6 June 2007 on the future common European asylum system, to support and coordinate practical cooperation activities, has received widespread backing. Hence, the Commission has launched a feasibility study, on the basis of which a legislative proposal for creating the EASO will be presented.
Solidarity and responsibility within the EU and in relations with non-EU countries
In the name of solidarity, a common solution needs to be found to address the problems arising from the substantial number of asylum applications that certain EU countries receive due to their geographical location or other reasons. The previously mentioned measures proposed in the policy plan should already harmonise application rules to the extent that asylum-seekers’ secondary movements will be reduced. Consequently, applications will be distributed more fairly among EU countries.
In addition, the Commission intends to amend the Dublin and Eurodac Regulations, with modifications that include allowing access by EU countries’ authorities and the European Police Office (Europol) to Eurodac for purposes of law enforcement.
Furthermore, instead of adopting a new overarching instrument to promote solidarity among EU countries, the Commission aims at establishing a series of solidarity mechanisms. To achieve this, the following is proposed:
- launching a study that assesses the possibilities for processing asylum applications jointly within EU territory;
- defining the means for temporarily suspending the Dublin rules for transferring asylum-seekers;
- creating asylum expert teams under the EASO to support EU countries in processing applications;
- providing funding to re-allocate within the EU, when necessary, those under international protection.
In the name of shared responsibility, since non-EU countries and countries of first asylum receive a far larger number of refugees, the EU will provide these countries more financial support to strengthen their capacity to provide protection. The integration of capacity-building for asylum into development cooperation will also be continued.
To truly commit to the cause of solidarity in its external relations, the Commission proposes that the EU focuses on the following to enhance the protection of refugees:
- Regional Protection Programmes (RPPs), which, on the basis of an evaluation to be carried out in 2008, will be transformed into regional multi-annual action plans;
- resettlement, on which the Commission will propose in 2009 a scheme to develop it into an EU-wide effective tool of protection;
- better managing the arrival of asylum seekers, for which the Commission will study the use of protected entry procedures to allow for distinctions to be made between persons in need of protection and other types of migrants before they arrive at a potential host country’s border. In addition, in 2009 the Commission will also launch a study in collaboration with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on the possibility of processing asylum applications jointly outside of EU territory.
Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999 and based on the conclusions of the Tampere European Council of 15-16 October 1999, the creation of CEAS was launched. Its first phase (1999-2005) aimed at harmonising EU countries’ legal frameworks on asylum based on common minimum standards. The objectives for the second phase of CEAS were established by the Hague Programme.