EUROPEAN LIST OF SAFE COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN

In “Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs - LIBE”

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The European Agenda for Migration presented by the Commission on 13 May 2015 took note that in addition to the immediate measures aimed at addressing the migratory pressure in the Mediterranean, further initiatives needed to be taken to better manage migration in all its aspects.

In his speech of 9 September 2015 on the 2015 State of the Union, Commission President Juncker announced a proposal for a regulation establishing an EU common list of safe countries of origin. The aim of the regulation is to support the swift processing of asylum applications from persons originating from countries designated as safe. The regulation would strengthen the safe country of origin provisions of Directive 2013/32/EU on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection. This will enable Member States to apply specific procedural rules, in particular accelerated asylum and border procedures, where the applicant is a national of a country that has been designated as a safe country of origin by national law.

The European Parliament in its resolution of 12 April 2016 on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration:

  • observed that if such a Union list would become obligatory for Member States it could, in principle, be an important tool for facilitating the asylum process, including return;
  • regretted the current situation in which Member States apply different lists, containing different safe countries, hampering uniform application and incentivising secondary movements;
  • underlined that any list of safe countries of origin should not detract from the principle that every person must be allowed an appropriate individual examination of his or her application for international protection.

On 7 July 2016, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) voted on the committee draft report by the rapporteur Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, France). The Members of the LIBE Committee agreed that the future EU common list of safe countries of origin, which should help Member States to process certain asylum applications faster and more consistently, should replace today’s national lists after a three-year transition period. When voting on the report, the LIBE Committee also adopted a mandate enabling the opening of talks with the Council.

In the Council, the Luxembourg Presidency suggested revisions to the Commission's proposal. The Justice and Home Affairs Council of 8-9 October 2015 confirmed the need for an effective return policy. Increasing coherence between migration and development policy is being emphasised through the New Partnership Framework with Third Countries and the series of compacts being concluded to ensure that development assistance helps countries of origin and transit to manage migration more effectively, and also incentivises them to effectively cooperate on readmission of irregular migrants. Work with the Commission proposal continued in the Asylum Working Party, with Coreper agreeing a mandate on 23 March 2016 to open negotiations with Parliament.

Negotiations continued in trilogues, where they were divided into four topics: methodology; means of suspension of country from the list; harmonisation of lists into a single list; and fundamental rights safeguards. Agreement was reached on the first two, but the latter two have been subject to disagreement.

While the co-legislators agreed on the common list approach, there was no decision as to which countries should be on the list. The Parliament and Council agreed to postpone the evaluation of the list until new country information is available, as the Commission’s methodology for drawing up the list came under criticism, in particular due to the inclusion of Turkey. On 16 November 2016, the delegations in the Council received a letter from José Carreira, Executive Director of EASO, containing new country of origin reports on the seven countries listed in the proposal (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey).

In 2016, the Commission also proposed to replace the current Asylum Procedures Directive with a regulation (see Reform of the Asylum Procedures Directive). In addition to choosing a directly applicable instrument that does not require transposition in national law, one of the most significant changes of the proposal (COM(2016) 467) concerns precisely the use of the safe country concepts, which are to become mandatory in all Member States. The Commission explained that the aim was to achieve a fully harmonised designation of safe countries of origin, proposed by the Commission on the basis of assessments conducted by the proposed European Union Agency for Asylum. In line with this, article 50(1) of the proposal includes a 'sunset' clause that would allow Member States to retain national designations of safe countries of origin for up to five years after the entry into force of the Asylum Procedures Regulation.

In the explanatory memorandum of the proposal, the Commission stated that 'the EU common list of safe countries of origin should be an integral part of this draft regulation' and, for this reason, the new text incorporates the proposal for a regulation establishing an EU common list of safe countries of origin, including the same list of countries. The Commission envisages the next steps as follows.

  • Once the co-legislators have agreed on the proposal for establishing an EU common list of safe countries of origin, it should be adopted.
  • The text of the new regulation would then be incorporated in the Asylum Procedures Regulation as it is adopted.
  • After that, the regulation establishing an EU common list of safe countries of origin should be repealed.

On 12 April 2017, the Council announced the suspension of negotiations on this file (content could be covered under the Common Procedure Regulation).

On 21 June 2020, the Commission withdrew its proposal for EU list of safe countries.

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Further reading:

Author: Anita Orav Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

Visit the European Parliament homepage on Migration.

As of 20/11/2022.