Brussels, 18 April 2008
The JHA Council adopted today conclusions on practical cooperation which invite the Commission to come forward in the near future with proposals to provide adequate support for practical cooperation activities between Member States, including the creation of an Asylum Support Office which would provide for adequate structural and financial backing in order to guarantee the level of ambition necessary to complete the Common European Asylum System.
Vice President Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Freedom, Security and Justice said “As we look towards a future Common European Asylum System, it is essential that we develop greater convergence, not only of legislation, but also of practice. It is vital that asylum authorities of the Member States have at their disposal concrete support to answer their daily and operational needs. With such support Member States can share information, improve the quality of procedures and jointly find solutions to emergency situations such as mass arrivals of asylum seekers. The creation of a Support Office in the future should be considered as a concrete way to provide the necessary level of coordination and support to Member States efforts.”
The main goal of practical co-operation between asylum national administrations is to improve the quality and convergence of Member States decision-making, through, inter alia, exchange of good practice, joint training activities and the sharing of information on countries from which asylum seekers originate. This is in the interest of both the Members States and asylum-seekers. Better quality and convergence will contribute to level the EU asylum playing field and build a single asylum space which gives protection to those who require it and deal fairly and efficiently with those without protection requirements.
However, the current EU-framework does not yet provide enough structural support for practical cooperation. Many activities are carried out on an ad hoc basis, for instance through workshops and EC financed projects. The creation of a more permanent structure would provide possibilities to have adequate human and financial resources to ensure sustainability and better coordination of all the practical cooperation activities.
The Commission is currently carrying out a feasibility study to explore options to transform the current structures involved in practical cooperation into a European Support Office. Such an office could take over and systematically coordinate activities on Country of Origin Information, development of a common curriculum and exchange of best practice. Furthermore, it could incorporate a training facility for all parties involved in the asylum process and provide support to Member States' facing particular pressures, for instance by managing teams of asylum experts to be deployed to those Member States. Finally, it could play a role in the implementation of the Regional Protection Programmes and in the coordination of any new policy initiative adopted in the future, for instance regarding resettlement at the EU level.
The Hague Programme adopted by the Brussels European Council of 2004 set up the blueprint in the area of Justice and Home Affairs at EU level for the coming years. As far as the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is concerned, it says that the ultimate goal should be the establishment of the common asylum procedure and uniform status for those granted asylum or subsidiary protection. Second phase legislative instruments should be adopted in order to complete the CEAS by 2010.
The Hague Programme also recognizes that, apart from the legislative approach, practical co-operation between the national asylum administrations of Member States will play an important part in fostering the necessary spirit of solidarity and responsibility sharing to achieve a truly common approach in the field of asylum.
Appropriate structures should be established to assist Member States to achieve a Single Procedure, to standardize Country of Origin Information and to help address particular pressures arising from factors such as geographical location. These structures should lead in the longer term to the creation of a European Support Office to oversee all forms of cooperation between Member States on the CEAS.
In the Communication 'New structures, new approaches: improving the quality of decision making in the Common European Asylum System' 18 February 2006, the Commission put forward its plans with respect to strengthened practical co-operation. The main goal of this co-operation is to improve convergence in decision-making by Member States within the framework of rules set by Community asylum legislation.
At the JHA Council in April 2006 the Council supported in general the
approach proposed by the Commission in the Communication on strengthened
practical co-operation and acknowledged the need to ensure appropriate
management of the ambitious programme of activities envisaged in the
 Dated 17 February 2006, COM (2006) 67 final.