Yesterday afternoon, the European Parliament Office in Malta organised a Citizens' Forum on Burden-sharing and Asylum.
The main aim of the event was to present the recent EP report "Report on enhanced intra-EU solidarity in the field of asylum", prepared by Cypriot MEP Kyriacos Triantaphyllides and recently approved by the Parliament. It's a very interesting report and raises a number of points that will certainly remain on the EU's asylum agenda for years to come.
The panel for yesterday's Forum was composed of UNHCR Malta's Head of Office Mr. Jon Hoisaeter, MEP Triantaphyllides, MEP Simon Busuttil and EASO Executive Director Dr. Robert Visser (missing from the photo below).
Each of the speakers delivered 15-minute presentations, with Visser focusing on the following main points:
- The report is challenging and thought-provoking, and is indicative of a field of EU law that is rapidly moving and developing;
- Solidarity does not come for free, is based on a sort of tit for tat understanding. Granting solidarity requires a mutual fulfilment of responsibilities, and is therefore based on mutual trust. This is a point also strongly made in the report;
- How does EASO fit into this? With its typically bottom-up approach, EASO will support the effective implementation of CEAS and practical cooperation activities, as it has been doing since its establishment. Examples given include: Greece and Luxembourg; on-going progress of the early-warning mechanism; involvement in training activities and materials for national services; the first COI report (Afghanistan); emergency meetings on the situation in Syria; inter-institutional cooperation with other EU agencies; active role in the EUREMA project evaluation;
- Solidarity is essentially a political discussion, on a level that is beyond EASO's remit. From what he has seen with EUREMA, the system may be improved as some problems were seen particularly in the conditions under which some relocations were implemented;
- Integration activities organised in the sending MS could increase its chances of attracting solidarity from other MS since it could result in refugees that are better equipped to eventually integrate in the receiving MS;
- Visser also mentioned that today he will be in Warsaw to sign EASO's working arrangements with Frontex.
Following the presentations, we all expected to have a discussion on the issues raised in the report and on our possible input in future solidarity exercises. Regrettably, the event was entirely taken over by a group of extremely loud and angry Maltese participants who felt the need to express their concerns at Malta being over-run by African migrants. Manner of delivery, and choice of terminology were not exactly respectful or polite, but indicated a sheer lack of awareness or understanding of very basic issues, coupled with an unwillingness to engage in dialogue.
Thanks to the EP Office in Malta for the invitation.