You have been part of EASO’s ‘’family’’ almost since the establishment of the agency serving as Vice Chair and now as Chair of the Management Board. How is this experience for you? Is there any particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
It has been a great honour to have been a member of the EASO Management Board since its inception. Indeed, I am the only member of the Board who has been able to attend every one of its 35 meetings! The Chair of the Management Board carries great responsibility at the top of the governance framework of the Agency. I particularly enjoy chairing meetings of the Board and the associated preparatory work in framing agendas and preparing strategic papers for Board meetings ably assisted Agency staff. A key responsibility is to ensure that Board meetings are always managed on the basis of consensus and that members can at all times make contributions to the work of the Board on issues of concern to them.
For me the moment I recall with great pride is my election as Chair of the Board in February 2019. Prior to this I had been Deputy Chair since 2015.
All in all, I have served in senior governance positions in the EASO for many years and it has been a particular pleasure for me to watch the Agency grow and to recruit so many fine staff who have shown great commitment and dedication to their work and to supporting the international protection process in the EU.
As EASO celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2020, 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 in the following 10 years?
For the future, a key mission of the Agency will be to ensure that it can undertake its role efficiently and effectively as the European Union Asylum Agency when the necessary legislation is adopted by legislators. The proposed EUAA has greater powers than the EASO and these include, in particular, the role of monitoring the implementation of the Common EU Asylum System in States which will include monitoring missions. In addition to its key tasks of providing operational and technical support, it is critical that the Agency is ready to undertake its broader remit and I am happy that the necessary preparations are being made for this purpose. In this regard, the continued engagement of the Agency with civil society groups, the UNHCR and with other key stakeholders will also be critically important.
What are your expectations from the EU's new migration and asylum pact, which the European Commission is expected to present in the Autumn?
The Pact will, amongst other things, set out a new roadmap and priorities for cooperation in the area of international protection in the EU in the years ahead. New legislative instruments are expected to be tabled in the context of the Common EU Asylum Policy in areas such as asylum procedures and solidarity in the allocation of responsibility for processing asylum claims, and these will underpin the operational and technical support work of the Agency for the years ahead. All of this will present a challenging work agenda for the Agency and Member States and is to be welcomed as enhanced common approaches and standards set a level playing pitch for Member States to adhere to and reduce secondary movements.
What three words would you use to describe your role as Chair of the EASO Management Board?
Strategic, leadership focussed and collegiate!
Do you remember the first time you came to EASO in Malta? Can you share with us your memories?
Malta is a wonderful country which, like Ireland, values its ancient history enormously. The people of Malta are welcoming at all times! As an avid historian of church history, I have been fascinated since my first visit, with the many beautiful churches on the island. In particular, my first tour of St. John’s Co-Cathedral always stands out and seeing the famous Caravaggio paintings! I always try to return there on each occasion I am on the island. And, of course, there is also the brilliant weather and many fine restaurants!
The Management Board Meeting, which usually takes place at EASO Headquarters, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this June took place online. How was this experience?
Because the EASO staff put so much excellent preparatory work into the event, the meeting of the Management Board by video conference was in my view a great success. We endeavoured to ensure that all the papers were issued in good time (as always!) and that the presentation slides were also circulated in advance of the meeting. This enabled members of the Board to strategically intervene on key issues and enabled the timetable to be adhered to by everyone! All business on the agenda was concluded satisfactorily and all key decisions were made as proposed.
What advice would you give to our readers who would like to apply for a job at EASO?
I would recommend that job applicants acquire a good knowledge of the work objectives of the Agency, which are very much international protection focussed, before applying. In this regard, the EASO website is an excellent place to start with a lot of good information for first time visitors. I would also say to anyone thinking of applying to work in EASO – be willing to work as a team player! Most of what EASO does depends on staff working together collegially and this is why, in my view, it has been so successful in undertaking its important mission to date.
I would like to again point out how impressed I have been by the hard work, commitment and dedication of EASO staff both in Malta and in its field of operations.