4.5. Procedures at first instance

The section on procedures at first instance provides an overview of the recent legislative, policy, practice and case-law developments concerning the various steps of the regular procedure in the EU+ countries and indicates the concerns that a selection of civil society sources raised regarding this area. It begins with the developments concerning time limits and highlights some of the measures aiming to reduce the length of the asylum procedure, an area which seems to have remained a major issue for both national authorities and civil society stakeholders. This first part also lists major changes in the organisation and staff of the national asylum authorities and shows some of the new technologies used to shorten processing times. The section then describes legislative amendments concerning the personal scope of asylum application, briefly notes changes regarding the provision of legal aid at first instance and spells out some other, more individual national legal amendments, before turning to the presentation of changes in policy and practice on the assessment of asylum applications, both in general terms and in a country-specific context. The section rounds up with developments reported on quality assurance.

The provisions determining regular procedures at first instance remained relatively stable at the national level in EU+ countries. Major legislative and policy changes affecting for example Access to procedure or Special procedures had an impact on this aspect as well, but overall, countries reported no substantial amendments that would have resulted in the complete revision of legislation, policies and practices for the regular procedure. The adopted changes mainly aimed for making the process overall more efficient and optimal, similarly to the situation reported in the Annual Report for 2017.