ECRE’s Recommendations for the Stockholm Programme

Time to show your cards – The need for a genuine commitment to
establish a Common European Asylum System based on high standards of

1. Introduction

With the publication of its Communication ‚An area of freedom,
security and justice serving the citizen‘, the Commission has presented
its views on the EU’s priorities in the field of justice and home
affairs, including in the field of asylum, for the next five years. The
Communication will be used as the basis for discussions between the
various stakeholders at EU level that should result in the adoption in
December 2009 by the Heads of State and Government of the so-called
Stockholm Programme. ECRE believes that the Stockholm Programme
provides the EU with the opportunity to set ambitious goals for
building a fair and efficient common asylum system, which could serve
as a model to other regions in the world. The EU has the means and the
capacity to construct a model system of protection but it currently
lacks the political will to go much beyond rhetoric. The EU’s asylum
policy is in need of a renewed political commitment and leadership. The
new five-year programme in the area of freedom, justice and security is
an important occasion to secure such commitment.

The chapter on asylum in the Commission Communication provides
a good overview of the issues at stake at EU level in the field of
asylum for the coming years. However, as a general remark ECRE warns
against a tendency to reduce the debate on the key priorities for the
next multi-annual framework in this field to the issue of solidarity
between Member States. There are important protection gaps in the EU’s
asylum policy as it stands today which need to be dealt with urgently.
While ECRE acknowledges that a common approach is doomed to fail
without solidarity, it remains equally important to address the
existing flaws and deficiencies in the current legal framework at EU
level and to ensure that the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) fully
complies with obligations under international refugee and human rights

ECRE welcomes the restated objective of "building a true common
area of protection and solidarity based on respect for human rights,
high standards of protection and a general improvement in the quality
of national systems". The explicit reference to the respect for human
rights and quality of national asylum systems is key. ECRE research on
various aspects of Member States‘ national asylum systems as well as
research carried out by UNHCR has shown serious problems with regard to
issues such as the quality of decision-making at first instance and
procedural guarantees as well as with regard to the level of reception
conditions for asylum seekers. In addition to stressing the need to
improve the quality of national systems, ECRE believes that there would
be added value in setting a general objective of improving the quality
of the CEAS as a concept covering procedural guarantees, protection
standards as well as reception conditions. Including such an objective
as a clear political commitment in the Stockholm Programme would also
acknowledge that the current legislative framework at EU-level needs
considerable improvement and that a successful second phase of
legislative harmonisation is indeed a precondition for achieving the
Tampere commitment to establish a CEAS based on high protection
standards. This paper outlines ECRE’s views on the priorities and
objectives that should be included in the Stockholm Programme in the
field of asylum. The paper follows the structure of subheadings used in
the Commission’s Communication along three different sections: a) A
single area of protection; b) Sharing of responsibilities and
solidarity between the Member States and c) Solidarity with non-member
countries: the external dimension.

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