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At the end of 2018, Germany continued to be the country with the largest stock of pending cases at all instances taken together despite a minor reduction compared to a year earlier (Figure 26). Germany remained the country with the largest number of pending cases for the eight consecutive year. Analyses of EASO data suggest that similar to the end of 2017, a very small proportion of the cases awaiting a decision in Germany were actually pending at first instance. Half of the pending cases at all instances in Germany concerned applications by nationals of Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.

Italy remained the second EU+ country with the highest number of pending cases but the stock decreased by almost one-third compared to the end of 2017 (Figure 26). Analyses of EASO data indicate that this decrease was reflected only at first instance, while the number of cases at higher instances actually increased. Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of the cases awaiting a decision in Italy continued to be at first instance. Similar to a year ago, the main countries of origin of applicants in the stock were Nigeria, Pakistan, Eritrea and Bangladesh.

Spain was subject to the largest absolute increase in pending cases, doubling to almost 79 000 at the end of 2018. Comparison of Eurostat and EASO data suggests that the trend was reflected at both first and higher instances but the absolute increase was much larger at first instance. At the end of 2018, the majority of applicants awaiting a decision in Spain were Venezuelans (40 %) and Colombians (13 %).

Pending cases, by EU+ country and year

Figure 26: The number of pending cases decreased in Germany and Italy but rose in Spain, Greece and France

A considerable absolute increase took place in the stock of pending cases awaiting final decision also in Greece, where the stock went above 76 000. Similar to Spain, this growth took place at both types of instances, but in absolute terms, it was larger at first instance where the bulk of the pending cases in Greece were at the end of 2018. Most of the applications awaiting a decision in Greece pertained to applicants from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Turkey.

At the end of 2018, France also had more pending cases than a year ago, up to almost 53 000. While for Spain and Greece the growth in the stock was a continuation from trends from 2017, for France this was a new development. Analyses of EASO data indicate that the increase occurred only at first instance. The citizenships of the applicants awaiting a decision in France were extremely diverse. About one-third of the pending cases concerned applicants from Afghanistan, Guinea, Albania, Georgia and Côte d'Ivoire.

Important developments also occurred in several other countries not in the top five EU+ countries with the most pending cases. In particular, the stock more than doubled in the Netherlands to 16 000 as well as in Cyprus to almost 10 200. Analyses of EASO data suggest that in both countries the rise was mostly at first instance. A significant absolute increase took place also for the United Kingdom but it was more moderate in relative terms. Conversely, considerable absolute drops in the number of pending cases occurred in Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland. 

The overall decline in pending cases at the EU+ level was mirrored in half of the EU+ states. In six countries the decrease was by more than a thousand cases, and in four of them (Germany, Italy, Austria and Sweden) it was by more than 10 000 cases. At the same time, eight EU+ countries recorded an increase by over a thousand cases and three of them (Spain, Greece and France) by more than 10 000. 

Developments in the stock of pending cases seem to have been largely affected by new asylum applications. The countries with the highest reduction in their stock of pending cases were also those which experienced the largest decrease in asylum applications throughout 2018. The opposite was also true: the three countries with the most notable increases in the stock of pending cases were also subject to the most significant increases in asylum applications. Although in France and Greece more decisions were issued at first instance in 2018 than in 2017, the speeding up of decision-making could not compensate for the rising caseload at first instance. The pace of decision-making might be related to different characteristics of the caseload as well as to administrative conditions and case-processing mechanisms.