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Parliamentary questions
7 July 2008
Answer given by Mr Barrot on behalf of the Commission

The Commission adopted on 17 June 2008 the communication ‘Policy Plan on Asylum — An integrated approach to protection across the EU’(1), which reiterates that, as recognised by the Hague Programme, one of the objectives of the Common European Asylum System is to assist those Member States which, notably because of their geographical position, are faced with particular pressures on their national asylum systems. In its Policy Plan the Commission furthermore states that it is the Union's responsibility to find a common response, based on the principle of solidarity, to the challenges faced by specific Member States.

The Policy Plan includes, among many other proposals, a list of possible measures to be proposed, or explored, by the Commission in the coming years, in order to support solidarity between the Member States in the area of asylum. These measures, if implemented, could alleviate the situation of Member States particularly affected by the flows of asylum-seekers arriving by sea, as is the case in Malta. In particular it notes that further alignment of national asylum procedures, legal standards, reception conditions and enhanced practical cooperation, as envisaged in this Policy Plan, are bound to reduce those secondary movements of asylum‑seekers which are mainly due to divergent applications of the rules. This could therefore result in a fairer overall distribution of asylum applications between Member States. In addition, the proposed extension of the provisions of the Long-Term Residents Directive(2) to beneficiaries of international protection, as well the transfer of protection mechanism proposed also in the Policy Plan may also have a positive effect on ‘overburdened’ Member States.

The Commission, in the Policy Plan, also notes that the best way to ensure a high degree of solidarity is not to adopt a new overarching instrument, but to put at the disposal of Member States a series of mechanisms, which will help them cope with the variety of challenges they are faced with. To this end, the Commission will propose:

the launch of a study assessing the possibilities for joint processing in the EU of specific caseloads, as requested by the Hague Programme, which would also examine how joint processing might alleviate the pressure on specific ‘overburdened’ Member States;
to create a Community mechanism which would allow, in well defined and exceptional circumstances, for the possibility of temporarily suspending the application of the Dublin rules for transfers of asylum-seekers to a Member State whose reception system cannot adequately deal with the transferred persons;
to create asylum expert teams who would be coordinated by a newly-created European Asylum Support Office for practical cooperation on asylum issues and which could be called upon to assist overburdened Member States, on a temporary basis, in performing the initial profiling of asylum‑seekers. In particular, the expert terms could provide support through interpretation services, as well as case-working and country of origin expertise;
to facilitate the internal re-allocation, on a voluntary basis, of beneficiaries of international protection from one Member State to another in cases of exceptional asylum pressure, by inter alia providing specific EU funding under existing financial instruments.

Finally, the Policy Plan states that the issue of the financial burden posed by high numbers of asylum‑seekers on the resources of Member States should be looked at from the wider perspective of general migratory pressures. The Commission will launch a study in the course of 2009 to evaluate possible methods of improving the impact of EU financial solidarity, including the European Refugee Fund, and to assess whether the existing financial instruments provide effective support to the challenges Member States face in addressing strong irregular migratory pressures. Proposals will be considered on the basis of the results of the study.

(1)COM(2008)360 final.
(2)Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents, OJ L 16, 23.1.2004.

OJ C 999, 01/01/2009
Last updated: 5 August 2008Legal notice