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Abstract

This article aims to uncover the legal background behind the European Union’s response to the ongoing refugee crisis. Pursuant to its Agenda on Migration, the EU has implemented a wide set of legal, financial and operative measures to face the challenges of the mass inflows of refugees onto its territory. Some of these measures aim to respond to what was classified as the most pressing duty of saving lives in the Mediterranean and strengthening EU external borders. Others aim to uphold the EU’s international obligations and values by assisting the third countries most affected. A core set of measures was then introduced to repair the existing EU legal framework on asylum, proven as dysfunctional when faced with the unprecedented pressures of incoming refugees. These measures came about in the context of an already deficient Common European Asylum System, yet the Union still decided to place the Dublin Regulation as a starting point for all operative plans dealing with the refugee crisis within the Union territory. Although the Dublin Regulation was not envisaged to function in a time of crisis, all the EU measures introduced were in effect merely exceptions to that inherently inefficient system. On the other hand, a true emergency mechanism was not something the Union lacked during the crucial moments of creating an operative plan for the Agenda. The existing Union framework on asylum creates two quite different concepts for determining the Member State responsible for providing international protection to refugees – one for regular asylum procedures, and another for emergency situations. By choosing the former instead of the latter, the EU went for the wrong option. The author’s position is that the Union in its centralised capacity failed to activate an efficient legal framework to respond to a crisis of the present magnitude, thus creating a perfect ground for individual Member States to become the main actors of crisis management, each invoking its own political particularities and national interests. The outcome was polarisation of the Member States, every day moving farther away from the ever-closer Union.