Interview with Mikael RIBBENVIK, Chair of the EASO Management Board

You have been the Swedish member of the EASO Management Board since 2013, you served as deputy Chairperson of the Board from 2019 to 2021 and then you were elected as Chair of the EASO Management Board. How is this experience for you so far? Have you seen EASO changing a lot throughout these years?

I have always been amazed by the cooperation between the EASO Management Board Members, how representatives from different countries can be in one room and work very effectively reaching common conclusions. 

Of course, the agency has changed a lot since I joined as the Swedish member of the EASO Management Bord. The agency is now bigger with new challenges. EASO was a very young agency and has matured significally during this time and especially during the last few years. Professionalism is something that is very evident in this organisation. 

 

What aspect of your role as Chairperson of the EASO Management Board do you enjoy the most?

It is too soon to answer this question since I was recently elected as the Chairperson. I would say that what I enjoy the most is of course the interaction with the colleagues, working together on a common goal. Some of the colleagues are dear friends also because we have been working together bilaterally in different aspects for many years. 

There are also new colleagues joining the Board which makes it even more dynamic. 
 

During the 38th Management Board Meeting, you adopted the EASO Strategy on Reception. What do you believe is the significance of this strategy?

This is really important because if we look at the first ten years of the agency, we have been very focused on asylum determination. What people see the most, is the reception conditions of the asylum seekers. National authorities are working hard on issuing asylum decisions, with backlogs and with creating effective processes, but that is not in the public eye. The EASO Strategy on Reception is an important strategy. Most of the national asylum offices in Europe are divided between asylum and reception sectors, where in the Swedish Migration Agency we always had asylum and reception sectors together, under the same umbrella. So, for us this is two sides of the same coin and to work in that in mind at the EASO context is interesting. 
 

As EASO celebrates this year its 10-year anniversary we are reminded of the Agency’s growing importance in providing operational and technical assistance in asylum matters to EU+ countries. How do you see EASO’s support to the EU on asylum and reception in the following 10 years?

The most significant change will be the new mandate and role for the agency, the European Union Agency for Asylum - EUAA which is closely related to the migration pact. These changes will come into effect soon and will have a huge impact in the agency. EASO staff and the Management Board are fully prepared for this and we look forward to this transition. 

If I look ten years in the future, I foresee that for all european countries migration will still be a very important topic. It is a polarising topic, and it will be high on the agenda for the next ten years. So of course, the EUAA will have an important role in Europe. 


 

You are currently serving as Director-General of the Swedish Migration Agency. How do you balance your career at the Swedish Migration Agency and your important role as Chair of the EASO Management Board?

Time is a limited commodity. It’s all about how you work. The most important thing is to work with competent and professional co-workers. If you put everything on your own shoulders, then it’s all question of time which is running out and unfortunately, you cannot extend it. You have to delegate and have trust in your co-worker. And that is my experience so far. 

I also have an excellent collaboration and precious support from the EASO Management Board Secretariat. 
 

Is there any particular moment or memory that stands out for you since you joined the EASO family back in 2013? Any random facts you could share with us?

My memory goes back to 2015-2016, when we were having a Management Board Meeting at EASO Headquarters and at the same time there was a boat coming from the other side of the harbour with migrants. And we could see that from our windows. That was a very special moment. 
 

What is the favourite part about working closely with colleagues/representatives of other EU Member States?

My favourite part about working with colleagues from other EU Member States is that we speak the same language - the asylum language, which brings you closer to each other. When we get together there is a deep understanding.
 

What do you wish other people knew about the important work that the EASO Management Board does?

Focus should be on the agency, the Executive Director and the team as they are doing the most important job. The Board has administrative function, trying to get more to the strategic topics so I guess this is not very interesting for the general public, however one can find more information about our role at the EASO Website. 
 

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