On 16th March the LIBE Committee approved a set of amendments to the 2005 Procedures Directive, recast with a view to improving its efficiency and achievement of its original goals.
According to the EP Press Release of the 17th March, the amendments may be grouped under 3 main headings: easier access to procedures; guarantees for asylum applicants & support for MS. In line with what we’ve been observing in relation to the general expectations and perceptions of EASO, the Press Release positions EASO under the last category, as one of the tools to be used by the EU to assist EU MS that are accepting “a disproportionately large number of asylum applications in relation to the size of their population”. Yet again, therefore, EASO is associated with EU MS facing particular pressures, with little emphasis on the Office’s other roles as specified in its establishing Regulation.
Yet a quick look at the original Directive proposals, as well as the LIBE Committee report that was the basis of its discussion and vote, shows that EASO is not given this limited functionality within the recast Directive. In fact, EASO is mentioned in the following instances (references are here taken from the MEP Report, although vis-á-vis the original proposals this has little impact on EASO):
- ERF and EASO resources must be made available to support MS efforts in implementing CEAS, particularly to those MS facing specific and disproportionate pressures on their asylum systems (page 3);
- Together with UNHCR, EASO shall be consulted by MS in their evaluation as to whether a planned extradition of a 3rd Country National could result in direct or indirect refoulement (page 30);
- EASO will contribute to the compilation of COI and of information on countries of transit, together with UNHCR and international human rights organisations (page 32);
- The national assessment as to whether a third country may be deemed a safe country of origin shall be based on information provided by, inter alia, UNHCR, the Council of Europe and EASO (page 99). Interestingly, the Committee is proposing to wholly delete this article, not (merely) on the basis of any opposition to the very notion of a safe country of origin (which in my opinion is an odious concept insofar as it could prevent the effective access to an asylum procedure), but apparently with the aim of removing this element of discretion and ensuring a more harmonised approach to the definition of safe third countries.