4 July 2014

On 26-27 June 2014, during the European Council meeting, EU heads of state and government have defined the strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning for the coming five years in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice. Regarding asylum, the overall priority highlighted by the European Council is to consistently transpose, effectively implement and consolidate legal instruments and policy measures already in place.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Strategic Guidelines lack any ambition and vision on the next steps needed to complete a Common European Asylum System that respects the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. For instance, it is striking that the mutual recognition of positive asylum decisions across the EU has not been included in the Strategic Guidelines as it is the next logical step in the completion of the legal framework of the Common European Asylum System. Furthermore, the guidelines fail to go beyond mere rhetoric when it comes to solidarity towards Member States that are struggling to live up to their obligations towards asylum seekers” stated Kris Pollet, ECRE’s Senior Legal and Policy Officer.

The strategic guidelines state that Frontex, “as an instrument of European Solidarity in the area of border management”, should reinforce its operational assistance to countries facing strong pressure at the external borders. The document also stresses that a European system of border guards, in the context of Frontex, should be studied in order to enhance the control and surveillance capabilities at EU’s external borders.

“The European Council Conclusions do not define clear political orientations and do not mention any new major initiatives [regarding intra EU solidarity] or the provision of additional financial support for EU countries in Europe’s southern/south-eastern periphery. In more concrete terms, the guidelines, for instance, do not take up calls from Italy to integrate into the EU framework the country’s Mare Nostrum initiative, which is a patrolling and search and rescue programme in the Mediterranean, saving thousands of lives over the past months,” states Janis Emmanouilidis from the European Policy Centre.

 “The strategic guidelines refer to the importance of avoiding the loss of lives of migrants undertaking hazardous journeys but seem to approach this issue purely from a perspective of border controls without even mentioning the possibility of considering the creation or expansion of legal channels for migrants and refugees to reach the EU,” stated Kris Pollet.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 4 July 2014.
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