Wednesday, 23 February 2011

There's more to CEAS than the south...

I just came across a reference to EASO on the site of the Latvian Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA), essentially saying that EASO will contribute towards enhancing practical cooperation and solidarity among the Member States.

It seems that ‘solidarity among the Member States’ is currently the phrase mostly associated with CEAS and EASO, although it generally a loud call from the southern EU MS and not often associated with the EU’s other borders. Yet of course asylum applications within the EU are not exclusively limited to those received in the south, and the need for increased European solidarity is certainly felt in other regions and voiced by other EU MS.

Just this morning, before the opening of the EU Justice & Home Affairs council meeting - for which the six southern EU MS prepared a common position based on solidarity and intra-EU relocation of migrants and asylum-seekers - Sweden’s and Austria’s Interior Ministers outrightly refused to call the current situation in Lampedusa an ‘emergency’. In the words of the Swedish Minister “Italy has only received 5,000 immigrants from Tunisia...and we think that it can cope on its own with this situation”, adding that in 2009 Sweden received around 32,000 asylum applications.

Austria’s Minister was also careful to point out that calls for responsibility-sharing (‘burden-sharing’ is such an ugly word!) should relate to asylum-seekers and not to economic migrants who could be returned to their countries of origin.

Since one of EASO’s major tasks is in fact to enhance solidarity, these EU MS tensions will certainly be political and ultimately operational obstacles in the Office achieving its goals. How will Mr. Visser reconcile these perceptions of what is an emergency, of which situations require concrete assistance and which may be dealt with by the particular MS?

Judging from the current impasse with CEAS, my present hopes are not too high.

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