The politics of EU external migration policy

Authored by: Natasja Reslow

The Routledge Handbook of the Politics of Migration in Europe

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  July  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138201187
eBook ISBN: 9781315512853
Adobe ISBN:


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One of the responses by the EU to the ‘migration crisis’ of 2015–2016 was continued externalisation of EU migration policy, i.e. seeking cooperation with non-EU countries on migration issues. Over the years the EU has built up a substantial tool-kit of instruments in this policy field. But why do the EU’s member states permit a role for the EU in a field that combines two sensitive policy areas (migration policy and foreign policy)? And why do non-EU countries, for which preventing irregular migration to the EU is unlikely to be high on the priority list, agree to such initiatives? This chapter shows how the literature approaches these questions of EU external migration governance. One strand of the literature looks at the internal dynamics within the EU, and asks which actors (EU institutions or member states) play the most significant role in EU external migration policy and what the nature of the resulting policy is. A second strand looks at the interaction between the EU and non-EU countries, and analyses the domestic preferences of non-EU countries, the strategies and influence of the EU on non-EU countries, and the broader power asymmetries between the EU and non-EU countries. A final, promising strand of the literature aims to bring these two aspects together by analysing the roles and preferences of all three sets of actors – the EU institutions, the member states and the non-EU countries – and shows the links and dynamics between them. Future research should focus on the functioning of EU external migration policy in practice.

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