EU Asylum Policies Through the Lenses of the UN Global Compact on Refugees

AuthorSergio Carrera - Roberto Cortinovis
ProfessionSenior Research Fellow and Head of the Justice and Home Affairs Programme at CEPS - Researcher in the Justice and Home Affairs Programme at CEPS
Sergio Carrera and Roberto Cortinovis1
1. Introduction
EU policy debates on asylum over the course of 2019 have revolved
around the need to abandon crisis-led policy-making that had
dominated EU policies in the aermath of the so-called ‘refugee
crisis’ from 2015 onward. e EU response to the crisis produced
a number of controversial policy developments. Emergency meas-
ures adopted during that period, including informal and extra-EU
Treaty instruments of cooperation with third countries, ended up
bypassing the system of checks and balances foreseen by the EU
legal system, raising concerns regarding their compatibility with
EU rule of law and fundamental rights principles and standards
(Carrera, Santos and Strik, 2019).
ese developments stands in direct contradiction with the
Tampere Programme’s aim, laid down in its paragraph 4, to estab-
lish “an open and secure European Union, fully committed to the
1 is Chapter draws from research conducted under the ReSOMA project. ReSOMA
receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation
programme under the grant agreement 770730.
Table of Contents
obligation of the Geneva Refugee Convention and other relevant
human rights instruments, and able to respond to humanitarian
needs on the basis of solidarity”. ey are incompatible with the
commitment to the “absolute respect of the right to seek asylum”,
ensuring that “nobody is sent back to persecution, i.e. maintaining
the principle of non-refoulement (paragraph 13 of the Tampere
Conclusions). is Chapter also argues that the ‘informalisation’
and intergovernmentalism characterizing latest EU policies and
initiatives stand at odds with the Lisbon Treaty call for the Union
to establish a common policy on asylum in Article 78.1 TFEU.
In 2016, the European Commission launched an overall reform
of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), which aimed,
among other things, to provide for structural responses to respon-
sibility-sharing issues raised by the refugee crisis by reforming the
EU Dublin system (European Commission, 2016a, 2016b). How-
ever, none of the proposals for the reform of the CEAS presented
by the Commission in 2016 could be nalised before the expiry of
the 2014-2019 legislative term due to the choice of member states
to stick to a logic of consensus and to discuss the asylum reform as
a ‘package’ (Carrera and Cortinovis, 2019a).
e need for a ‘fresh start’ out of the polarized debates of the
post-crisis period may be the reason behind the choice of the new
President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen to develop a
New ‘Pact on Migration and Asylum’.2 In parallel, the adoption
of the United Nations Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) in
December 2018 and the agenda it lays down to advance respon-
sibility sharing for refugees at the global level fostered a debate
regarding the role and contribution of the EU and its Member
states in the achievement of the Compact’s objectives over the
years to come (Carrera and Cortinovis, 2019b).
In spite of the momentum injected by the agenda of the new
Commission and the steering role played by the implementation
of the UN GCR, policy developments over 2019 have underlined
2 Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. Mission letter to Ylva
Johansson, Commissioner for Home Aairs, Brussels, 1 December 2019.

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