“Common European Asylum System,” press release by Cecilia Malmström for the European Commission:
A Common European Asylum System
I will focus on a fundamental right that is very close to my heart, one that is easy to proclaim in theory, but more complicated to defend in practice: the right to asylum. I have dedicated a large part of my mandate to this issue.
Asylum is one of our most important policy areas. Our Schengen zone and area of free movement means that we have to have a common asylum system.
You cannot have open borders and free movement for citizens, Schengen visas and common rules on immigration, but then not have a common asylum policy. It just wouldn’t work. And it didn’t work before. The system was already unstable – so we had to fix it.
Our first policy programme in the field of Justice and Home Affairs – the Tampere Programme of 1999 – was the beginning of the Common European Asylum System.
It led to the adoption of several new EU laws concerning the whole asylum process – common standards on reception conditions, rules on who qualified for refugee status, common standards on procedures, and so on.
This was a great achievement, but it was only a first step. We were not fully satisfied with the outcome because these laws were in many ways a half-hearted effort. They were adopted by unanimity of Member States, which meant that every Member State could insist to have “their” specific provisions in.
In the end, the laws became a “Christmas trees”, heavy with unwanted decorations. As you as practitioners well know, they were full of ambiguities and loopholes…