Monday, 17 January 2011

EASO Executive Director - Mr. Robert Visser

On 26th November EASO’s Management Board held its first meeting at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta, Malta. The main aim of this first meeting was to select the Office’s Executive Director from amongst the last-remaining 3 or 4 candidates. The appointment is for a term of 5 years, that may by way of exception be extended once for not more than 3 years.

The Board selected Mr. Robert Visser (1954), Dutch and until this appointment Director General for International Affairs and Immigration within the Dutch Ministry of Justice. According to various pieces of profile information, gathered on the Migrants at Sea blog:

“He was appointed to the Director General position in 2003. Before that he worked as an adviser in the Office of the Prime Minister and as Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry of General Affairs (plaatsvervangend secretaris-generaal van het ministerie van Algemene Zaken). He has also held positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He holds a doctoral degree. His doctoral research was published in a 2008 book entitled: “In dienst van het algemeen belang: Ministeriële verantwoordelijkheid en parlementair vertrouwen” (“Serving the public interest: Ministerial responsibility and parliamentary confidence”).”

The Blog also points to an interview Visser gave to EurAsylum as part of their Monthly Policy Interviews, wherein Mr. Visser commented on Key outcomes of the Dutch EU Presidency in the field of immigration and asylum.” In the interview Visser commented on:

  • the need for far-reaching cooperation amongst MS in migration and asylum matters;
  • the challenges faced by MS when transposing the asylum acquis, and the relevance of monitoring and discussing their efforts;
  • a necessary balance between “control measures” and the integration of legally-residing immigrants;
  • that EU relations with 3rd countries should not be aimed at burden-shifting but at burden-sharing, with migration and asylum issues integrated in “adjacent policy areas” such as development.
In terms of the EASO Regulation, the Executive Director is the second branch of the Office’s administrative and management structure, together with the Management Board to which he remains accountable and that has the authority to suspend or dismiss him where necessary. An independent officer, the Executive Director participates in the meetings of the Management Board, yet without a vote. Specifically, the Executive Director shall (See Article 31 for a list of duties):

  • by 30 September each year present a draft work programme for the following year to the Board for its review and for it to receive the opinion of the Commission;
  • present the Office’s annual report to the EP and the latter is also empowered to question the Director on the performance of his duties;
  • propose to the Management Board the number and profiles of the experts to form part of the Asylum Intervention Pools (support teams), generally and also specifically in relation to requests made by MS;
  • take decisions on MS requests for the deployment of support teams not later than 5 days of the request and take the lead, together with the requesting MS, in coordinating the deployment and operation of the support teams;
  • coordinate the Consultative Forum (the civil society forum);
  • generally be responsible for the administrative and financial management of the Office.
On a very practical level, the Executive Director will be key in setting EASO’s tone and approach, elements that will ultimately decide the fate of this Office. It is hoped that Visser will empower his position and the Office to be proactive, consultative and firm and to operate within the principles and framework of the 1951 Convention and a strong CEAS.

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