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Evaluation of the Common European Asylum System under Pressure and Recommendations for Further Development

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CEASEVAL (Evaluation of the Common European Asylum System under Pressure and Recommendations for Further Development)

Reporting period: 2018-08-01 to 2019-10-31

CEASEVAL carried out a comprehensive evaluation of the CEAS in terms of its framework and practice, focusing on four main objectives: 1) To combine multiple disciplines in order to explore different perspectives of the CEAS (legislative, implementation, politicisation, relations with borders and solidarity) and to integrate them into new conceptual frameworks of harmonisation and solidarity. 2) To develop a new theoretical framework of multilevel governance of the CEAS, which will be empirically tested, analysing both the vertical and the horizontal dimensions, thus investigating the convergences and divergences of different levels of government (national, regional, local) and of different kinds of actors (public/private, for profit/non- profit) in policymaking processes, with the overarching goal of identifying critical points in the relations between the different governance levels. 3) To provide a critical evaluation of the CEAS by identifying and analysing discrepancies in the transposition and incorporation of European standards in the area of asylum in domestic legislation, as well as differences in their implementation, both with regard to the design of national asylum systems and in the management of stress situations. 4) To elaborate new policies by constructing different alternatives of implementing a common European asylum system, either by harmonising 28 EU Member State asylum systems, or by (closer) regional cooperation of like-minded states or by processing asylum claims outside the EU (externalisation of EU asylum policies).
Centralised and top-down decision-making processes is prevailing in the field of reception. In the context of the “European refugee crisis”, decision-making became even more centralised with an increasing concentration of competences and power in the hands of central governments.
There was a growing internal heterogeneity of reception systems during “European refugee crisis”, due to the setting up of emergency reception solutions by the central government, the increasing number and diversity of organisations involved in the management of reception facilities, the development of locally-based solutions, the gaps in state capacity and the different compensating role played by the international organisations. When convergence is achieved, it generally happens within localities and on a small scale, via horizontal coordination efforts, as a bottom-up process.
Main limitations of harmonisation: 1)discretion offered by Directives has led to divergences in transposition into domestic frameworks. 2) ambiguity and discretion inherent in Regulations has carried risks of inconsistent application at national level. 3) the ‘enforcement deficit’ in EU legislation has allowed Member States to maintain aspects of their legislation and practice despite clear violations of EU law.
Main discrepancies regarding burden sharing was evident in the empirical research, which showed that there is a mismatch between the theory of establishing the country responsible with asylum applications (on the basis of the first country of arrival principle) and the reality of migrants’ lived experiences, who engage in secondary movements largely due to family and (perceived) employment opportunities elsewhere. In light of this, it is suggested that the family element of the Dublin Regulation), should be used more frequently when determining the country in charge with the examination of asylum applications, than it is currently the case.
The analysis of political debates showed that both migration and the responsibility vis-à-vis refugees in Europe have become an issue of politicisation. Political discourses should highlight that more Europe does not mean necessarily less national sovereignty. In fact, it is the other way around: failing to give a common response to migration and asylum leads to non-functioning migration and asylum policies which in turn question national sovereignty and the very legitimacy of EU and national institutions.
While the technical side of the CEAS requires further details to bring the negotiated recast instruments to an end, the political side of the CEAS requires pressing the restart button, a frank political discussion, the involvement of external experts and the establishment of a common vision on the political direction of EU asylum policy, in a spirit of solidarity.
Scenarios and policy alternatives, 1) at the state level: If the future of the CEAS could lie in a differentiated application of its directives it might be feasible to agree on further harmonization towards a joint set of regulations between a number of member states who are willing to. This would result in the de facto decoupling of EU-membership from unconditional participation in the CEAS. Such a coalition of willing states could then effectively address responsibility sharing between them.
Secondary movement of asylum seekers and refugees goes against CEAS' current design and is thus deemed undesirable by governments. Stakeholders tend to be of a different opinion: secondary movements accommodate integration needs of asylum seekers and refugees. Not facilitating such needs increases societal costs and political concerns. Ideally, asylum seekers and refugees are distributed according to such needs and matched with national or sub-national demands for their human capital. As long as this remains outside CEAS's scope, it is recommendable to facilitate free movement of recognized refugees within the EU's labor market. 2) at the sub-state level: Instead
CEASEVAL moved beyond the State of Art especially by providing a sound theoretical basis for the construction of the CEAS, depicting the varying meanings of “harmonization”, “solidarity” and “responsibility sharing”, as well as on “bordering”, “ordering” and “othering”. Thus, it integrates the two key policies for the current implementation of the CEAS and combined it with key concepts for the European integration process, notably the Schengen System. It moved beyond existing knowledge by implementing a multi-level research frame and by integrating the local level and non-state actors in the analysis. It integrated research on public discourses, taking into account the main agents of politicization and means of communication. And it took into account the acceleration of policy making and public discourses throughout Europe, as well as the impact of forthcoming elections.
CEASEVAL consortium at the kick-off meeting in Chemnitz, Nov. 2017