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Cecilia Malmström

Member of the European Commission responsible for Home Affairs

Introductory speech of the Inaugural EASO Management Board meeting

Inaugural EASO Management Board meeting

Malta, 25 November 2010

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to address the first management board meeting of the European Asylum Support Office. The level of representation here today bear witness to the great importance we all attach to this new agency and its mandate.

Unfortunately, I could not be with you today in Malta but I hope to visit the EASO in the near future.

Let me start by expressing my appreciation to the Maltese Government for their availability to host the Office and their efforts in support of the Office.

The Common European Asylum System rests on four main pillars:

  • legislative harmonisation; reinforced practical cooperation, enhanced solidarity, and the strategic development of the external dimension of the System.

I see the European Asylum Support Office as an integral part of this system.

The EASO will play a crucial role as a centre of expertise on the Member States' asylum systems. It will contribute to better implementation of the asylum legislation by Member States and sharing of best practices.

We need to move fast to put all conditional and practical arrangement in place. During this meeting, you will appoint the first Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Management Board. Let me congratulate in advance the successful candidates.

You will also select one of the shortlisted candidates to become the first Executive Director of the Office. I wish all candidates the best of luck.

The Executive Director will have a very important role in running the Office. He needs to have a strong vision and a thorough understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the context in which the Support Office will operate.

Together with you, he will translate the strategic objectives conferred to the Support Office into bold priorities and targeted actions.

You will first and foremost need to define a forward looking work programme that will enshrine the three broad fields of action: ° practical cooperation, ° support to Member States under particular pressure, and ° contribute to the implementation of the Common European Asylum System.

The Support Office will also organise, promote and coordinate activities related to information on countries of origin. The Country of Origin portal will be a key tool in achieving this. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all Member States to connect their databases to the portal so as to optimise its use.

The EURASIL network activities that were managed until now by the Commission should find new impetus and be intensified, particularly in the light of many practical cooperation projects that have been developed between Member States, UNHCR and some civil society organisations.

Through the European Asylum Curriculum, the Support Office will provide standardised training on asylum which should lead to mutual understanding, more consistency, and pooling of best practices in this field. In this way it will create a sense of belonging to the community of asylum officials in Europe.

The Support Office will also provide support for relocation and for the external dimension of the Common European Asylum System, including resettlement.

Given the crucial role of the Office in building Europe's policies, I invite you to give the Support Office the necessary tools and means that would allow it to become an active key player in the construction of the Common European Asylum System.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If the EASO is to achieve its raison d'être, it would have to work hand in hand with key partners such as the European Commission, Member States, other agencies working in the field, namely Frontex and the Fundamental Rights Agency, UNHCR and the wider civil society.

And let me underline the importance of the European Parliament. It is a valuable partner of significant political importance in the work of the Support Office. Hence, I recommend that you give a strategic importance to the Parliament in your work.

Expectations are high; the tasks are many. Priorities need to be set. The real impact of the Support Office will depend on its ability to respond quickly to needs and to deliver on priority tasks.

Various Member States have to cope with a difficult asylum situation and will be looking for your help. In particular, the Greek asylum system is of serious concern. One of the first tasks of the Support Office should be to coordinate the provision of support to Greece in implementing its National Action Plan on Asylum Reform and Migration Management.

Furthermore, the deployment of the Rapid Border Intervention Teams, coordinated by FRONTEX, calls for a swift cooperation between the Support Office and Frontex.

The reply the Office will be able to give to the Greek situation will be the first and serious test for the Office. I am however convinced that the EASO - together with the Greek government - will be able to make clear and tangible improvements in the Greek asylum procedure and reception system in the near future.

Dear colleagues,

I hope that the enthusiasm that fuelled the creation of the Support Office will accompany its work throughout the years to come.

I can assure you that the Commission will continue to lend its support to the EASO in all possible ways to achieve concrete results. We will help the Executive Director in carrying out the recruitment procedures for the staff of the Support Office and in preparing the budgetary procedure.

You will lay strong foundations for the Support Office. Decisive and timely action based on a common understanding of the challenges that lay ahead of us is now required. These foundations must build on the values that our Union is made of.

The success of the Support Office will make a substantial contribution to a system which is able to provide protection to those in need, in line with our European humanitarian tradition.

Let me end by wishing you all the success in launching the office and achieving the challenging tasks that lay ahead of you.

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