Friday, 10 August 2012

Extensive EASO discussion in the Bundestag

Some weeks ago we were involved in an interesting exchange with the office of Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, a member of the Alliance 90/The Greens in the German Bundestag.  The discussion centered around a forthcoming inquiry in the German Parliament on the workings of the European Asylum Support Office.

Thanks to a very able intern in our office (thanks Miriam!), we were able to translate the Bundestag proceedings and share them with you today.  For our German readers, we're also uploading the original document here

It is in fact quite an extensive question and answer session, covering a broad range of issues not only directly related to the Office itself but also to CEAS and the broader asylum dimension in the EU.

Many thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Viola von Cramon-Taubadel. Photo from 

1. How much staff is currently working for EASO in Valletta/Malta and other areas? From which countries is the staff (please list in detail)?

Answer to 1
To the appointed date of the 1st of June 2012 the EASO job chart features 61 full-time jobs from which 39 are occupied at the moment. The staff is from Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Greece, Estonia, France, UK, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Romania, Czech Republic and Belgium. Furthermore EASO has the possibility to recruit experts from the different member states for concrete support actions.

2. Does the government share the estimation of the EP committee for civil freedom, justice and domestic affairs (LIBE), that the intended funds for EASO for the year 2013 are insufficient?  If not, what is the reason?

3. Does the government think that EASO is able to fulfill its assigned duties and responsibilities in respect of its actual financial and personnel capacities?
If not, why didn’t the government advocate for a strengthening of EASO, like the European Council demanded in its conclusion of the 8th of March 2012 (Document 7485/12)?

Answer to 2+3
EASO is still in its initial phase which means that not all the responsibilities and duties can be fulfilled yet. In 2013 EASO gets two million Euro more than it got in 2012. This amount is calculated within the context of the difficult budget situation of the EU. Therefore the amount is lower than it would have been in the original financial plan. In general the government thinks that the allocated resources are enough for EASO to fulfill their duties and responsibilities.

a) Which process appoints the members of the administrative board of EASO and which role does the German government play in this process?
b) How are the decisions controlled parliamentary?
c) In how far does civil society play a role in contributing to EASO’s work? What is the government’s opinion towards the fact that the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is not allowed to give his vote in the administrative board of EASO?

Answer to 4
a) The official document for the setting up of EASO from the 19th of May 2010 states that the admission board consists of one person from each member state and two persons announced by the Commission. The members are picked by the member states on the basis of their experience and the level of their knowledge about asylum. The German member of the EASO administrative board is a representative of the ministry for home affairs.

b) Overall the parliamentary right to question and control is applied. Nevertheless there are no special mechanisms to control the appointments of the members of the administrative board.

c) EASO is having a close dialogue with important organisations and boards of the civil society which are active in the field of asylum politics. They can be on a local, regional, state or European level and for this reason EASO implemented an advisory board. The tasks of this advisory board are to contribute to the yearly work program, to give feedback to the EASO yearly report and the yearly report on the asylum situation in Europe. This conference took place on the 15th of December 2011 with 75 representatives of 45 different organisations.

The UNCHR is represented through its participation at the meetings of the administrative board and with that he contributes to a full extend to EASO’s work. Based on his specific knowledge he takes over an important advisory function. The actual responsibility to implement the Common European Asylum System is in the hands of the Commission of the member states which therefore have a right to vote in the admission board.

5. How does the government assess the missing competence of the EASO, to set up binding criteria for the acknowledgement of refugees even though this would be urgently needed for a Common European Asylum System?

Answer to 5
Binding rules for a common asylum status and subsidiary protection status for TCN’s are made by the European Parliament and the European Commission. Independently from this point it is an important aim to have support from the member states to harmonize the asylum praxis. It is one of EASO’s tasks to support this process through training and providing information about countries of origin and statutory provisions.

6. Does the government support the suggestion of the European Commission to give EASO a central role in the action plan for unaccompanied minors and if so, with which personnel and financial capacities should EASO fulfil this task?

Answer to 6
The government supports an active role of EASO for implementing the action plan for unaccompanied minors (2010-2014). In the EASO work program for 2013 this field builds a focus for their work. This means that EASO should enhance the information flow between member states of the European Union, organize training sessions and create action plans for the conditions of admissions, the asylum processes and integration of unaccompanied minors. To fulfill those duties EASO is in charge of a full-time employee and a budget of 290.000 Euro.

a) Which concrete instruments should EASO develop for the mechanisms of early warning, prevention and crisis management, which was claimed by the European Council on the 8th of March 2012?
b) Which changes of the Dublin 2 Regulation are necessary to establish the mechanism of early warning, prevention and crisis management?
c) Which political processes and support actions should the European Commission take, if EASO discovers indefensible circumstances for refugees in a member state?

Answer to 7
a) The latest negotiations of the Dublin Regulation state that an implementation of an article of the so called early warning, prevention and crisis management mechanism should be processed. A statement about the actual role of EASO in this mechanism can firstly be made after the regulations are implemented. The negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council are ongoing.

b)The government wishes for the EASO to play an important role in the process of gathering information about recognising and erasing failures in the asylum systems of the member states. It should operate on the field of practical questions between experts and concerned member states, other member states and the European Commission. Therefore the government sees the necessity to build up an ongoing monitoring of the asylum situation of the member states linked to a regular trend and risk analysis.

c) If a member state needs help from the European Commission and other EU member states when it is facing a special burden, concrete financial, -organisational or personnel support to increase the situation of this member state can be taken into consideration.

a) How does the government see the chances for EASO to organize a European training system for employees in the field of asylum?
b) What should be the quota which the European Commission requests, for employees in the field of asylum who actually should attend the training system?

Answer to 8:
a) For its training activities in the field of asylum, EASO can use works which were already done by the member states. Especially the European Asylum Curriculum (EAC) which was set up by the General Director’s Immigration Service Conference (GDISC). The EAC is a training project for asylum and migration services which can be applied throughout the whole European community. It consists of 13 training sessions which are based on the latest level of the Common European Asylum System and is always renewed under the leadership of EASO together with experts from the member states and UNHCR. With this it sets a certain standard in quality for the realization of asylum processes within the European Union. From the beginning of this year the EAC activities have been fully transferred to EASO.

b) The training sessions should generally orientate on the target group as well as at the need and the experience of the member states. Fixing a special quota could be dangerous in the sense of limiting the much needed flexibility of the member states

9. Would the government recommend a flow of information about asylum that goes beyond the exchange of migration statistics and EASO regulations? If yes, what is the argumentation? If the government is against it, please state why not?

Answer to 9:
EASO has the duty to organize, coordinate and promote the exchange of information about several EU wide applied instruments which can be used on the field of asylum between the EU member states themselves as well as between the member states and the European Commission. Basically it is not allowed to save personalized data in the databases.
Already now, the member states transmit their current overviews and trends on the asylum situation quarterly. EASO processes this data and compiles a complete overview for the member states as well as it produces the yearly report. Beyond this an exchange of data on the mechanisms of early warning, prevention and early warning can be taken into consideration.

10. How does the government assess the EU’s possibility to react more efficiently and with more solidarity to future refugee movements with the help of EASO? Which capacities are needed to ensure EASO’s operational capability?

Answer to 10
First of all it’s every single member state’s obligation to fulfill their duties regarding refugees. In this case EASO can only take over a supportive role. As a consequence the special support teams sent by EASO to especially burdened EU member states only take over a counseling role and don’t have decision making power. A statement about EASO’s reaction possibilities according to refugee movements and the therefore needed capacities only can be provided by a later stage as EASO is still in its initial phase.

a) How does the government judge EASO’s involvement on the Greek action plan for asylum reforms and migration management?
b) How would the government explain why Greece only employed 11 new people on the field of asylum instead of employing 700 new people like it was planned originally in February 2012?
c) How does the government assess the fact that according to the report on the process of the Greek action plan EASO has a less important role than the current FRONTEX-Mission in Greece?
d) What does the government think, who should, facing this disproportion, implement the European standards according to the Common European Asylum Policy (CEAS) in Greece, especially taking into account the condition of admission and the access to a fair asylum procedure?

Answer to 11
a) EASO provides support to Greek offices through sending experts from different EU member states who take in a consultative role in setting up the Greek asylum system. This support already led to an improvement of the Greece asylum system. Nevertheless EASO can only operate in the frame of Greece’s legal preconditions for a working asylum system. For this reason the Greek government is still asked to take all necessary actions for creating the right preconditions.

b) There are several reasons which cause a delay of the process of employing staff for the Greek asylum office. First of all there is a hiring stop for the official sector in Greece which makes it impossible to hire new employees. Secondly there is a lack of adequate applicants from other offices. Vice versa there is no Greek law which offers the possibility to send civil servants to new offices against their will. Furthermore the Greek government didn’t imply the opportunity of transferring certain non high policy functions to private companies. Further delay was caused by the necessary new election on the 17th of June 2012.

c) The report which was cited presents the activities and recommendations of FRONTEX and EASO. Differences occur because FRONTEX and EASO have different tasks. Furthermore FRONTEX exists for seven years now and has a staff of 300 people. Compared to that EASO is still in its initial phase. The government is not making any conclusions about the impact of those two agencies based on this report.

d) The transformation of the CEAS into national law and its practical implementation are up to Greece. Nevertheless Greece can count on the support of other EU member states and the EU Commission

a) How does the government define the conclusion of the European Council (8.3.2012, document 7485/12) that the cooperation between EASO and FRONTEX should be “close and open minded”?
b) Does the government think it is appropriate that according to establish a functional CEAS, FRONTEX will be granted 79 500 million Euro in 2013 but EASO only receives 12 million Euro in 2013?

Answer to 12
a) Besides the cooperation at the FRONTEX consultative forum for basic legal questions, the coordination of European Border Guard Teams/ Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT) is reasonable. FRONTEX and EASO are aiming for a formal working agreement.

b) The Budget for FRONTEX is used to implement the duties which are described in the EU enactment 11168/2011. Therefore there is no direct link to the establishment of the CEAS.

The EU Commission demanded a stronger cooperation between EASO and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). Why is this demand not mentioned in the conclusions of the EU Council? (8.3.2012, document 7115/12) With which argumentation is the government not stepping in for such an increased cooperation?

Answer to 13
Task oriented cooperation between EU agencies should be seen as self-evident. This applies especially for cooperation between EASO and FRA. A special reference concerning genuine and practical solidarity is not required in the conclusions of the EU Council.

The impressive Bundestag.
How is the work of EASO evaluated in order to adapt its mandate to current challenges in the field of EU refugee protection (Draft of the report of the EP on the 15th of May 2012 (2012/2032(INI))?

Answer to 14
The tasks of EASO are defined in article 2 of the foundation regulation. They can be changed by the legislator if needed. In order to evaluate EASO’s work, it presents its yearly activity report to the EP, the European Council, the European Commission and the European Court of Auditors.

Which concrete tasks should EASO take over in planning and conducting EU resettlement programs?

Answer to 15
Besides supporting Greece and building up its full functionality, EASO is currently concentrating on encouraging the exchange of information and established practices between EU member states. Setting up this focus is supported by the government. With the increasing participation of EU member states in the EU resettlement program, EASO should take over a coordinating function.

How should EASO support third countries in setting up their asylum systems and strengthen their national asylum directions? Which capacities are needed?

Answer to 16
In order to ensure a coherent EU answer to the lingering pressure of migration, EASO should contribute to building up asylum capacities in neighboring countries of the southern EU states. At the moment there can’t be a statement about how many capacities would be needed.

a) How does the approach of ‘genuine and practical solidarity’ work for member states which are highly burdened with migration flows?
b) How should a system of permanent solidarity in refugee issues be established and which role should EASO play?
c) Which concrete actions did the government take since March to develop the already existing solidarity mechanisms on a bilateral level? (EU –Council document 10062/12)

Answer to 17
a+b) The EU council set up a frame for genuine and practical solidarity for member states which are especially burdened with migration flows on the 8th of March 2012. The basic points are: Solidarity through responsibility and mutual trust, developing an early warning mechanism, prevention and crisis management in the Dublin regulation, preventive cooperation, solidarity in crisis, strengthening the cooperation between EASO and FRONTEX, financial solidarity, Relocation, examination on the application of the guidelines for subsidiary protection, examination of joint editing of applications for asylum, returns, more intensive cooperation with important countries of transit and origin. Every of those basic points has its own implementation guidelines which include the contribution of EASO. For more information look at the EU council document (7485/12, ASIM 28).

c) The EU Council puts the focus on supporting EASO and FRONTEX on their joint action in the EU. Only one of the 16 points of the EU Council focuses on bilateral help between the European member states. In accordance with that the government’s contributions focuses on EASO and FRONTEX.

A additional bilateral action on the field of asylum is undertaken by the federal office for migration and refugees. They financed a study trip of two employees of the Greek asylum office in June 2012. They studied how to use the electronic asylum file and the technical implementation of the exchange of information about countries of origin. The federal police supports Italy and Greece in fighting illegal migration through sending border control police officers to the harbours of Igoumenitsa, Patras, Bari, Ancona and the airports Thessaloniki and Athens. The government is generally willing to give more bilateral support for affected member states. Nevertheless this also requires initiatives of those member states.

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