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Convened by Jean-François Durieux and Violeta Moreno Lax, the Public Seminar Series touched upon the three ‘pillars’ of the second phase of CEAS

Lines of people sleep rough on Petrou Ralli Street in Athens in a queue to apply for asylum © UNHCR / K Kehayioy
Lines of people sleep rough on Petrou Ralli Street in Athens in a queue to apply for asylum

A Common European Asylum System (CEAS), including the establishment of an EU-wide refugee status, remains a central objective of the European Union as a self-proclaimed area of freedom, security and justice. The development of the CEAS, which is well into its second phase under the Stockholm Programme (2006-2012), is influenced by concurrent changes in the governance of the EU integration project as a whole, including a re-distribution of competences among supra-national institutions, as well as between these and Member States. 

This internal dialectic, which translates into gaps and inconsistencies in EU law and policies on migration and asylum, is compounded by the external challenges of mixed migration flows, perceived security threats, unresolved crises and their attendant protracted refugee situations, and a persistent deficit of responsibility-sharing and international cooperation.

What hides behind the flurry of new EU asylum instruments, mechanisms and other support offices? Is the CEAS going forward, or backward [and from whose standpoint?] – or is it stalling? This is the question, which the RSC put to five leading law scholars within the framework of the Trinity term series of public seminars.

Convened by Jean-François Durieux and Violeta Moreno Lax (who was also one of the speakers), the series touched upon all three ‘pillars’ of the second phase of CEAS, namely: further alignment of the Member States’ asylum legislations; effective intra-EU cooperation and solidarity; and EU cooperation with the rest of the world. Importantly, all speakers brought human rights law, as codified in the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, to bear on their critical reading of EU law development. 

Cathryn Costello (Oxford) and Hélène Lambert (Westminster) discussed the roles of the judiciary, both at national and supra-national levels, and stressed the need for greater dialogue and complementarity between these judicial fora. María-Teresa Gil-Bazo (Newcastle) exposed the limits of EU-centred solidarity, proposing creative ways of correcting the weaknesses of existing devices for responsibility-sharing. 

Violeta Moreno Lax (Oxford) examined the difficulties posed by an EU border and migration management policy premised on security concerns, revealing their possible incompatibility with legal obligations regarding access to international protection. Elspeth Guild (Queen Mary/Nijmegen) identified the wider consequences of the EU measures in the development of a new international framework of solidarity obligations of states towards those seeking asylum, challenging the ‘minimum standards’ logic pervading the ‘first phase’ of the CEAS and opening the horizon to a new approach the ‘second phase’ instruments should embrace in line with the Stockholm Programme’s ambitions. 

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