Monday, 1 February 2016

Draft Report on the situation in the Mediterranean: Is EASO becoming the new "principal coordinator of the CEAS"?

On the 18th of January 2016 Members of the European Parliament: Roberta Metsola (EPP) and Cécile Kyenge (S&D) delivered a report on “the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration” where they submitted their recommendations in relation to migration and border management.

This report was a result of the Resolution ((2014/2097)(RSP)), where the European Parliament requested the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to deliver a report which would touch upon a variety of issues regarding migration, listed below:

  • Article 80 - Solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, including search and rescue obligations;
  • Tackling criminal smuggling, trafficking and labor exploitation of irregular migrants;
  • Border management and visa-policy, including the role of Frontex and other relevant Agencies;
  • Developing safe and lawful routes for asylum seekers and refugees into the EU including the Union resettlement policy and corresponding integration policies;
  • The strategy on cooperation with third countries, in particular on regional protection programmes, resettlement, returns and to address the root causes of migration;
  • Developing adequate legal economic migration channels;
  • Analysis on how Home Affairs funds are spent in migration & development context, including emergency funds;
  • And last but certainly not least, the effective implementation of the CEAS, including the role of European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

Sections 58 and 59 of the report are dedicated on recommendations on the improvement of EASO. Section 58 introduces the possible development of EASO as the “principal coordinator of the CEAS”. Principal coordinator” is an extremely interesting term, especially for a European agency that is relatively new and the competences of which have not always been crystal clear. It must be underlined that there is no definition or further analysis of this term, although the report states that “EASO needs to develop from a collection of experts from Member States into a fully-fledged Union Agency providing operational support to Member States and at the external borders”. It therefore becomes clear that the report underlines the need for a more proactive agency approach largely to support the Member States operationally.

We wonder, in particular, how the report understands the term ‘principal coordinator’ in the context of EASO’s relationship with the Commission and whether the MEPs believe EASO should become an agency primarily concerned with ground support. We’ve often noted this tension in EASO’s mandate, and highlighted that whilst we believe in the importance of operational support to struggling Member States, we also stress that EASO has far more potential and utility in addressing the lack of harmonisation of the standards stipulated in CEAS. We firmly believe that EASO should not become an operational crutch for struggling Member States, but that it should be far more proactive in supporting the creation and implementation of a vision for CEAS and for refugees coming to and living in the EU.

As expected, the report also touched upon the the budgetary limitation in relation to relocation, resettlement and the external dimension. The writers highlight that a mere EUR 30,000 will not suffice under the current circumstances, especially in view of EASO’s heavy involvement in relocation. The report specifies that EASO will not be able to live up to expectations in its current form. It also identifies lack of human resources as one of the core reasons. Interestingly, the report clarifies that this is an issue that must be resolved not only in the short term but also in the long term.


After contacting MEP Roberta Metsola, she stated that:
"There is no quick fix to migration. We need to all move from our entrenched ideological towers, look at every single aspect of the issue and come up with an all-encompassing plan that looks at all the short, medium and long-term options available.

But coming up with a plan on paper is not enough, we must have something that works in practice and does not just serve to grab a few headlines before sitting on a shelf to gather dust. This is what we have tried to do with this report - we are determined to plot the political direction for future action on this issue. It simply cannot wait."

Overall, said report stresses that EASO has the capacity to have a very important role with regards to CEAS, however it can only do so if certain changes are made. It identifies the budgetary increase as one of the main ways to achieve that result, however it does not give clear and specific guidelines on how this can be achieved. On the other hand, one could argue that this report may be a shallow but an important step forward in order to resolve some of the current migration issues that the EU is facing.

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