Building Knowledge for a Concerted and Sustainable Approach to Refugee Resettlement in the EU and its Member States

Resettlement at EU level

EU policy and institutional framework overview

Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999, the Commission has been working toward the establishment of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). In this context, the Commission has always emphasised the need for the EU engage more in resettlement of refugees from third countries and for resettlement to form an integral part of EU asylum policy.

In its Communication ‘Towards more accessible equitable and managed asylum systems’ (COM(2003) 315 final), the European Commission sets out ten basic premises including an EU-wide resettlement scheme and burden sharing within the EU, as well as with the regions of origin.

In 2003, the Italian EU Presidency organized a seminar in Rome concerning the implementation of Conclusion 26 of the Thessaloniki European Council on how to achieve a more orderly and managed entry in the EU of persons in need of international protection. Based on the results of a resettlement feasibility study, the seminar concluded that resettlement is an indispensable and essential part of the international protection system.

One year later, as a response to the Thessaloniki Conclusion 26, the Commission issued a Communication on improving access to durable solutions (COM(2004) 410 final) that identified key elements of an EU Resettlement Scheme.

After public consultations carried out in the framework of the Green Paper on the future of CEAS (COM (2007) 301 final), the EC announced a Policy Plan on Asylum (COM(2008) 360 final) and declared that it would propose an “EU Resettlement Scheme” in the course of the following year. Furthermore, in 2008, the
new European Refugee Fund (ERF III) (Decision 573/2007/EC) – which provides financial assistance for resettlement of refugees from third countries to EU Member States - became operational.

Year 2009 became crucial for the future of EU’s resettlement policy. During the Swedish Presidency, the Commission presented a proposal for an EU Resettlement Scheme (COM(2009) 447 final). The Stockholm programme (2010/C 115/01) - a roadmap for EU’s work in the area of justice, freedom and security (2010-14) - welcomed the initiative and invited EU institutions to encourage the participation of Member States in the Scheme.

The same year, the Commission adopted a proposal (COM(2009) 67 final) for the creation of a European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which became operational in 2010. EASO aims at developing practical cooperation among EU States on asylum (including activities related to resettlement) and contributing to the implementation of the CEAS.

Today, despite all these legal and political initiatives, the Member States are not sufficiently engaged in resettlement. However, the recently adopted EU joint resettlement programme (March 2012) should enable closer Member State cooperation and ensure an EU coordination of national initiatives. By joining efforts, Member States can give meaning to the strategic use and impact of resettlement. In fact, the next Multiannual Financial Framework (2014-2020) foresees a Resettlement Programme with common priorities, financial incentives and a concrete pledging mechanism.