Migration and asylum in the European Union
According to the Treaty of Lisbon which came into force on December 1, 2009, the European Union and the Member States share competence in migration and asylum policy which is part of a broader policy area – freedom, security and justice. Thus, legislation in this policy area is partially adopted on the EU level and Member States, including Latvia, have to transpose it into national legislation or implement directly, but partially Member States can act as independent legislators on those issues, which are not regulated on the EU level.
Main policy principles and guidelines for migration and asylum policy, as well as aims to be achieved and tasks to be performed are defined in two EU policy papers which were adopted at the highest level – European Pact on Immigration and Asylum and the Stockholm programme.
European Pact on Immigration and Asylum which was adopted by the European Council on October 15-16, 2008 prescribes five ambitious political commitments in the area of migration and asylum policy for EU:
- to organize legal immigration – to take account of the priorities, needs and reception capacities determined by each Member State, and to encourage integration;
- to control illegal immigration by ensuring that illegal immigrants return to their countries of origin or to a country of transit;
- to make border controls more effective;
- to construct a Europe of asylum;
- to create a comprehensive partnership with the countries of origin and of transit in order to encourage the synergy between migration and development.
The Stockholm programme was elaborated taking into consideration the commitments defined in the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum and adopted by the European Council on December 10-11, 2009. The Stockholm programme is a multi-annual programme (2010-2014) for the area of freedom, security and justice and defines political priorities and commitments for the next five years, inter alia, in the area of migration and asylum policy. The key objective for this policy domain is – a Europe of responsibility, solidarity and partnership in migration and asylum matters.
Thus the development of a forward-looking and comprehensive European migration policy, based on solidarity and responsibility is stressed to be of core importance. It is stated in the programme that well-managed migration can be beneficial to all stakeholders and that Europe will need a flexible policy which is responsive to the priorities and needs of Member States and enable migrants to take full advantage of their potential. Meanwhile, it is necessary to prevent, control and combat illegal migration as the EU faces an increasing pressure from illegal migration flows. However, at the same time, people in need of protection must be ensured access to legally safe and efficient asylum procedures.