Similar decisions in similar cases
The basic objective of the common European asylum system is that every third country national, regardless of the Member State in which they apply for international protection, is entitled to a similar treatment of their asylum application and similar reception conditions. To achieve this objective, the EU has been working on the harmonisation of the European asylum system since 1999, by means of a two-track policy: European legislation and practical cooperation.
Between 1999 and 2004 a series of minimum standards were established for the main aspects of the asylum process. This is the so-called asylum package: the Dublin and Eurodac Regulations, the Asylum Procedures, Qualification and Reception Conditions Directives, and the Temporary Protection Directive. In the Lisbon Treaty, or the European Constitution, the European heads of state and government made a commitment to continue to work on a common asylum procedure with a uniform asylum status, valid in the entire EU. To this end, the complete asylum package – with the exception of the Temporary Protection Directive – was renegotiated between 2009 and 2013; this time, the partners no longer aimed to achieve minimum standards, but common rules.
In the meantime, an influential jurisprudence on asylum matters has been developed, both at the national and at the European level. The European Court of Human Rights has already developed a considerable body of jurisprudence relating to the principle of non-refoulement, and continues to develop its jurisprudence on asylum matters. Furthermore, the Court of Justice of the European Union is gaining importance with its preliminary rulings on asylum matters. It is to be expected that the role of the Court in the harmonisation of the European asylum policy will increase over the next years.
To encourage practical cooperation between national asylum services, the EU is making funds available for concrete projects. The recently created Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) is intended to help Member States with the implementation of the European asylum acquis and ensure a better exchange of information and practices between Member States.
In order to coordinate more efficiently all the practical cooperation activities, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) was set up in 2010. This EU agency, established in Malta, helps Member States put the EU legislation into practice, offers support to countries suffering particular asylum-related pressure, and reinforces the operational cooperation between national asylum services. In a short period of time EASO has developed a series of important instruments, which will continue to contribute to a European harmonisation of the asylum policy: common training modules, common COI reports, reliable and current statistics on asylum, concrete support missions in countries such as Greece, Bulgaria or Italy, etc.
The role of the CGRS in building a European asylum system
At the European level the CGRS plays a pioneering role in the building of a common European asylum system. This is also reflected in the mission of the CGRS, which includes a clear reference to the European and international dimension of the asylum policy.
For instance, the CGRS represented the Belgian authorities in the negotiations on the review of the Qualification and Asylum Procedures Directives. A crucial point for Belgium in these negotiations was to achieve a substantial increase in guarantees for applicants for international protection, with the necessary attention to the quality and efficiency of the asylum process, and a real contribution to the harmonisation process through amendments to the current legislation.
Together with the Swedish and Dutch sister organisations, and with Fedasil, the CGRS is one of the most active and committed partners of EASO. For Dirk Van den Bulck, the representative of Belgium in EASO’s Board of Directors, practical cooperation is a spearhead of the European policy. Therefore, the CGRS is closely involved in the development of a whole series of EASO products, in particular relating to COI, training and quality. In 2014 EASO started with some projects on joint processing of applications for international protection. For the first time in the history of the EU asylum experts from one country actually take part in the asylum procedure in another Member State. This includes the registration of applications, the processing of Dublin requests, the asylum interview and the assessment of the need for international protection.
Without a doubt, we are at the beginning of an important evolution. And the CGRS will continue to play a leading role in this process so as to offer protection to those who need it, wherever they are in the EU.