Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Executive Director's intervention in a regional migration/asylum seminar

Picture taken from event Facebook page

Last week I attended a seminar organised by the European Parliament Offices in Cyprus, Greece and Malta entitled 'Europe's new Mediterranean Reality: Migration and ASylum in Malta, Greece and Cyprus.'  The event was held in Malta and was well-attended, including by a large group of Maltese, Greek and Cypriot academic, journalists and NGO representatives.

The speakers were primarily MEPs from the three Mediterranean countries, yet with the interesting additions of Dr. Robert Visser and the Malta Armed Forces Brigadier Martin Xuereb.  Malta's JHA Minister Hon. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici closed the event.  

Picture taken from event Facebook page
Of interest to this blog is Dr. Visser's intervention, as it is on occasions like these that we can get a more concrete idea of how EASO's Executive Director views the Agency he is responsible for.  This is a summary of the notes I took during his presentation:

  • overview of EASO's role, with a focus on 2012 as the target date for the coming together of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS);
  • Visser highlighted what he thinks is EASO's primary role and interestingly it is not the emergency support role built into the Regulation to help those EU MS facing 'particular pressures', but it is the permanent assistance EASO can give to all EU MS.  He reiterated that EASO's presence in Malta should not be interpreted as a sign that the Agency will focus its efforts on the 'particular pressure' EU MS, but that activities such as on-going training, information gathering and analysis and cooperation with the legal profession are really EASO's back-bone.  In the light of earlier comments we've made on EASO's image as the saviour of the Southern EU MS, we fully support Dr. Visser's comments and reiterate that in our opinion the strengthening of CEAS and supporting its effective implementation should be EASO's main focus;
  • on the Experts Pool, Visser confirmed that it already enjoys the membership of around 350 experts from around the EU;
  • External dimension - EASO should work for and in Third Countries, towards the creation and strengthening of Regional Protection Programmes and increasing resettlement and relocation opportunities;
  • What's next?  Greece will remain a focus for the next two years, possibly more; the European Asylum Curriculum; Country of Origin Information portal; Consultative Forum; EUREMA II;
  • Can the EU have an 'early warning mechanism'?  Difficult, yet useful especially if developed through joint country and situation assessments between EASO, EU MS and agencies such as UNHCR, in order to obtain an accurate "picture of reality".
Full programme can be found here.

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