20.9.2005   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 231/55


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the managed entry in the EU of persons in need of international protection and the enhancement of the protection capacity of the regions of origin: ‘improving access to durable solutions’

(2005/C 231/07)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS,

Having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the managed entry in the EU of persons in need of international protection and the enhancement of the protection capacity of the regions of origin: ‘improving access to durable solutions’ COM (2004) 410 final;

Having regard to the decision of the European Commission of 25 August 2004 to consult it on this matter, under the first paragraph of Article 265 of the Treaty establishing the European Community;

Having regard to the decision of its president of 5 April 2004 to instruct the Commission for External Relations to draw up an opinion on this subject;

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular Article 63(2)(b) thereof;

Having regard to the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, in particular Articles II-61, II-78, II-79 and III-266, III-267 and III-268;

Having regard to the Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees of 28 July 1951, supplemented by the New York Protocol of 31 January 1967;

Having regard to the Presidency Conclusions on the Hague Programme: Strengthening Freedom, Security and Justice in the European Union, and in particular Specific Orientations on Asylum, Migration and Border Policy (point 1.2) and the External Dimension of Asylum and Migration (point 1.6.);

Having regard to its opinion on the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on immigration, integration and employment (COM(2003) 336 final, CdR 223/2003 fin (1));

Having regard to its opinions dealing specifically with refugee policy (CdR 90/2001 fin (2); CdR 214/2001 fin (3); CdR 93/2002 fin (4); CdR 249/2003 (5));

Having regard to its draft opinion (CdR 338/2004 rev. 1) adopted on 7 February 2005 by the Commission for External Relations (rapporteur: Mr Sértő-Radics, Mayor of Uszka municipality (HU/ELDR));

1)

Whereas, in order to achieve durable solutions, sharing of responsibilities among Member States concerning the managed entry in the EU of persons in need of international protection should be improved, and the protection capacity of the countries of origin should be enhanced with a view to framing and implementing a common refugee policy in all Member States;

2)

Whereas, for this objective to be achieved, there is a need for the Member States and regions concerned — including countries or regions of origin or transit — to be provided with the requisite funding, taking EU enlargement and the needs of new Member States into special consideration;

adopted the following opinion at its 59th plenary session, held on 13 and 14 April 2005 (session of 14 April).

1.   The Committee of the Regions' views

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

1.1

endorses the European Commission's proposals on the managed entry in the EU of persons in need of international protection and the enhancement of the protection capacity of the regions of origin ‘improving access to durable solutions’ and supports in particular the proposed EU Regional Protection Programmes improving the protection capacity of countries in the regions of origin (neighbouring and transit countries);

1.2

points to the need to follow the recommendations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees regarding gender-related persecution as one of the grounds for recognising refugee status;

1.3

appreciates the European Commission's intention to involve transit countries in its approach to persons in need of international protection, but considers that there should be more emphasis on transit countries with regard to the role of the regions and the provision of appropriate support for them;

1.4

emphasises that the effects of the reception of persons in need of international protection are most evident at local level in the communities which receive these groups; it is therefore of vital importance to involve local and regional authorities in making decisions on the reception and integration of asylum seekers and refugees;

1.5

draws particular attention to the key role of local and regional players as regards the responsibility they bear in the reception of persons in need of international protection and in actions promoting integration; consequently regrets that the European Commission's proposal does not provide for sufficiently wide consultation of local and regional authorities in planning the implementation of the programme and taking decisions on its funding. The proposal does not do enough to ensure that local and regional players have an opportunity to participate in developing good practice in connection with Community actions;

1.6

believes it is important, in that respect, to secure greater coherence and integration between domestic and foreign policy objectives, instruments and procedures, especially regarding issues of a cross-border nature;

1.7

draws attention to the fact that cooperation and joint action by the local and regional authorities concerned, including local and regional authorities in Member States of reception, countries of origin and countries of transit, can make a substantial contribution to support for persons in need of international protection;

1.8

considers that further analysis and examination of the EU Resettlement Scheme is needed with regard to its likely social impact, particularly on labour markets, in less developed territories suffering from high unemployment in the Member States and regions concerned;

1.9

acknowledges the importance of EU policy supporting the population living in underdeveloped poor countries and regions, but on the other hand emphasises the importance of equitable treatment for all EU citizens, in order to give the opportunity for measures under the Resettlement Scheme enjoying wider support among citizens of Member States;

1.10

proposes that the European Commission, in cooperation with NGOs and other stakeholders, should engage in further study of the legal issues involved, with a view to establishing objective and uniform criteria enabling cases of persons requiring international protection for their settlement to be identified, and thus to ensure respect for human rights and the absence of discrimination, and to guarantee the requisite legal support for countries and regions of reception. It also feels that it is important to ensure integration into the labour market of refugees arriving in Member States under resettlement schemes, on the basis of which they should enjoy equal rights with all EU citizens.

2.   The Committee of the Regions' recommendations

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

2.1

supports the communication of the Commission as a good basis of the further evaluation works, but in particular with regard to the EU resettlement scheme, considers that further analysis and examination are needed, and therefore recommends extending the deadline for submission of the resettlement scheme proposal to the Council to enable drafting of a more carefully prepared document;

2.2

calls for greater involvement of local and regional authorities in framing and implementing the immigration and asylum policies, at the same time providing them with the requisite financial support;

2.3

proposes considering extension of the scope of funding under Regional Cooperation and the New Neighbourhood Policy, which are included in the third main objective of the Structural Funds for the 2007-2013 period, to cover these tasks; and hopes that the joint multilateral programmes conducted under that objective and the bilateral action plans that will be implemented as part of neighbourhood policy will be coordinated effectively;

2.4

given the scale of migration in the Mediterranean zone, it is proposed that in future calls under programmes for regulating migration flows, such as the AENEAS programme, priority be given to projects focusing on action in this area;

2.5

calls for an implementation of the EU resettlement schemes which ensures the equal treatment both of refugees to be resettled in Member States and of all EU citizens;

2.6

supports the implementation of the Presidency's Conclusion of the Hague Programme and considers it desirable to invite the local and regional authorities into the proposed intercultural dialogue between all members of society within common forums and activities in order to improve mutual understanding of all policy areas related to integration.

Brussels, 14 April 2005

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Peter STRAUB


(1)  OJ C 109, 30.4.2004 pp. 46-49.

(2)  OJ C 19, 22.1.2002 pp. 20-22.

(3)  OJ C 107, 3.5.2002 pp. 85-88.

(4)  OJ C 278, 14.11.2002 pp. 44-48.

(5)  OJ C 23, 27.1.2004 pp. 30-32.