The European Union's executive floated options Wednesday aimed at making the bloc's asylum system fairer and more harmonized.

The existing so-called Dublin rules, under which asylum seekers must file their claims in the first EU state they reach, failed last year to cope with an inflow of more than 1 million people into Europe.

The European Commission is expected to present legislative proposals in the coming months.

It is envisaging the following reforms:


- Option 1: Dublin-Plus

The Dublin system could remain in place, but with an additional "corrective fairness mechanism" that kicks in when a member state is overburdened by a "large and disproportionate inflow" of migrants or asylum seekers.

Once a predefined threshold of asylum applications is reached in the country in question, potential refugees would be redistributed across other member states, according to a set distribution key.

At present, a similar mechanism exists as a one-off pledge to relieve countries such as Greece and Italy of up to 160,000 asylum seekers. Implementation is lagging, however, with just over 1,100 people relocated to date.

- Option 2: Fundamental overhaul

Under this plan, the Dublin system would be scrapped and replaced with a mechanism allocating asylum seekers to member states on the basis of a distribution key that takes into account the countries' size, wealth and capacity to absorb refugees. This would be irrespective of where the asylum claimant first entered the EU.

Individual member states would be responsible for deciding on the asylum requests of those people allocated to them.

- 'Europeanization' of the asylum process

In the long term, the commission suggests that the responsibility for assessing asylum claims could shift to the EU level, for example to a bolstered-up version of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

Asylum seekers would be allocated to member states on the basis of the distribution key outlined above, but the decision to grant them refugee status would be taken centrally.

The commission acknowledges, however, that this would require "major institutional transformation," making it "difficult to envisage in the short or medium term."


- Further harmonize EU asylum rules

Each member state has its own rules to assess asylum claims, meaning that people "shop" around and try to reach those countries where they consider their chances to be highest. The national systems are in line with EU guidelines, but the commission wants to replace these with a single set of asylum rules applying to all member states, harmonizing aspects such as the maximum duration of the asylum procedure. It also wants to ensure that reception conditions are the same across the EU.

- Prevent border-hopping within the EU

A lack of internal EU borders makes it easy for asylum seekers to file their claim in one member state and then abscond to another. The commission is considering sanctions in such cases, including possible detention. It also suggested reinforcing the existing rules to ensure that refugees are only entitled to rights and benefits in the country granting them protection.

- Expand use of fingerprint database

The commission wants to expand the Eurodac system, which stores fingerprint data, so it can help in applying the reformed asylum system. This would also make Eurodac available to help identify economic migrants - those who are not entitled to international protection - and return them home more easily.

- Strengthen EASO's role

EASO could be given greater powers to ensure that member states are complying with EU asylum standards on issues such as reception conditions and access to asylum procedures. This could pave the way for the commission to intervene by prescribing extra measures if shortcomings are identified.

The commission also suggested appointing EASO to carry out the distribution of asylum seekers under either of the two suggested options to reform the Dublin system.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.