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UN Refugee Agency, EC Sign Accords On Asylum Laws

UN Refugee Agency, European Commission Sign Accords Boosting Cooperation On Asylum Laws

The United Nations refugee agency and the European Commission today signed two agreements to bolster their cooperation on the development of European asylum laws, and on policy and assistance for refugees both within the European Union and beyond its borders.

During a visit to Brussels, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with the External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The agreement is intended to consolidate, develop and better structure existing cooperation between UNHCR and the European Commission (EC) on protection and assistance for refugees and other people of concern to UNHCR outside the borders of the European Union.

Mr. Lubbers signed a second accord with EC Vice-President Franco Frattini, who is Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, that will facilitate greater cooperation on asylum and refugee protection issues, and builds on a previous arrangement geared to the first phase of EU harmonization of asylum completed last May.

UNHCR's key role in the development of EU policy and legislation on refugee matters is firmly established in European Community law. The Amsterdam Treaty requires consultation with UNHCR on matters related to asylum policy, and obliges EU Member States to adopt laws on asylum which are in accordance with the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees. The new EU Constitutional Treaty also guarantees the right to asylum, through the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

The two agreements signed today will supplement these legal obligations with practical cooperative arrangements to facilitate and intensify UNHCR's work with the European Commission on policy as well as practice, including in the delivery of aid for refugees.

"These agreements will strengthen the strong working relations and collaborative efforts to address the many refugee challenges facing UNHCR and the EU, both within Europe's borders and beyond," said Judith Kumin, the agency's representative in Brussels. "Cooperation and coordination between the EC and UNHCR can help both parties achieve more effective results."

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