MEPs in the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament (EP) have endorsed the appointment of Robert Klaas Visser as the first executive director of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) to be based in Malta.

Mr Visser gave a good performance during an hour-long grilling in front of MEPs a few weeks ago saying how he intends to develop this agency in the coming years.

The EP committee has now sent a positive assessment of the candidate to the EP’s Conference of Presidents for final approval. The EP is expected to ask the management board of EASO to go ahead with the appointment of Mr Visser soon.

In his remarks to the committee, Mr Visser – a leading migration expert in the Dutch civil service – said that he was planning to start recruitment in the agency as soon as possible with the aim of having it up and running by June.

He said that one of the most important aspects of this agency is to develop common practices of how the EU and its member states can implement a common asylum policy and said that the EASO will be an important tool to achieve this goal.

This will include the provision of training facilities to EU migration experts and the provision of technical and practical information which could come handy during severe migratory pressures.

The new EU Agency, which will be functioning from new offices based in Maritime House in the Grand Harbour, is expected to employ some 60 staff, including many experts, in its first three years of operation. It has been given a budget of around €40 million.

Malta was chosen by the EU Council to host the office last year following fierce competition by Cyprus and Bulgaria.

Following months of lobbying coordinated by Malta’s Permanent Representation in Brussels, Malta’s bid was deemed to be the best among the competing candidatures.