The EU is finally moving towards a common asylum policy. On 4 May, the European Commission made a proposal to improve the migration policy, with the conclusion of the asylum system as one of its goals.
This push for action has been triggered by the uprisings in Northern Africa, as the European states seemed unable to address the strong immigration fluxes. Even though the situation isn’t exactly new, this episode highlights the need for a single European response to major exterior events. The lack of a foreign policy unity remains one of the EU’s most problematic areas.
EU countries already began to set up a common asylum system back in 1999, but the ongoing process ended up being “too slow“. The main intentions haven’t changed much though: to harmonize the legislative measures and to provide a uniform status for those granted with asylum in a EU country. Plus, as the European Commission now stresses, resettlement within the EU Member-states must become a more common practice. And the numbers continue to show the extent by which Europe still lags behind. Last year, around 5,000 refugees were resettled within the EU, as compared to 75,000 in the US. Even Canada alone resettled more refugees than all the EU countries together…
The EU clearly has a long way to go, but the crisis in Northern Africa might have given the drive to finally face the unfinished task. The number of asylum claims has risen dramatically, and true cooperation might be the only way forward. Besides, 2012 is the deadline to complete the Common European Asylum System, according to the EU’s intentions. So it’s time to find solutions and put them into practice. This process will surely not be easy. It will imply a reshaping of national responsibilities and a strengthened cooperation between a large number of states. But an open Europe has its price, and Europe must finally be ready to comply with unpredictable and exceptional circumstances.