Moving Borders. European Immigration Policy and the Multidimensional Instability of the Boundaries

Article excerpt

Abstract:

Two contemporary phenomena in the field of immigration force us to reflect upon the relationship between the migration flows and their political management: the tortuous development of the European immigration policies, and the contemporary struggles between member states in the administration and regulation of the last flows of immigrants coming from the 2011 "Arab Spring" countries. This paper attempts to answer two interrelated questions: What do these phenomena teach us about the features of the political and territorial space called Europe? Is it possible to read the current struggles on immigration as the essential political nature of Europe? Particular attention is paid to the agreement on migration among member states and European institutions and, at the same time, to the dimensions and dialectics of borders, with some examples from the Italian and Spanish cases. In this light, this paper aims to show how a wide theoretical and historical approach can be useful to understand the contradictory character of immigration policy and the multidimensional features of the EU borders.

Keywords: European borders, immigration policy, Italy, Schengen area, Spain, security

1. Introduction

The European Union is a political "space" of extreme interest for contemporary political science. Its socio-political features and institutional characteristics make Europe a unique area in the international context. In addition, the relationship between the European Union, its institutions and policies, and international migration is an issue that has attracted academic interest in recent decades. There is no doubt that, in the years when the European Union enlarged, the common opinion has interpreted this relationship in two opposite ways. On one hand, it is a causal relationship: the EU enlargement has encouraged immigration into the EU Member States and, in the same way, does not pay enough attention to irregular immigration. The opposing view looks at the EU policy as a resolving relationship: the EU policy can help solving the issue of immigration on the European continent. On the other hand, the academic sphere has often emphasized the contradictions and ambiguities, to the point that it is common to refer to Europe as a "cluster of contradictions"1.

Similarly, Joaquin Arango in a recent article states that "a look at the ci rcumstances of immigration in the EU in the early years of twenty first century highlights two contradictory trends. One, the number of those coming from outside continues to grow. At the same time, the immigration policies of almost all EU countries are increasingly restrictive"2.

In this context, the immigration policies of liberal states, at least over the last decades, are characterized by a restrictive tendency, dominated by the cutting of rights and freedoms of immigrants -especially illegal- and a strengthening of controls and border surveillance3. With these lenses a current phenomenon could be read: the recent struggles between member states in the administration and regulation of the last flows of immigrants coming from the 2011 "Arab spring" countries. Giving credence to the assertion of Aristide Zolberg according to whom the control that states exercise over borders is a distinctive social and political process4, it seems clear that the main challenge of the immigration policies is the governance of this social phenomenon. This governance would control possible effects for the stability of the political system and would formulate measures to ensure stability itself. In other words, the role of the immigration policy would be to regulate and channel immigration in order not to destabilize the political and economic systems of so-called host societies.

The explicit immigration policies of the individual Member States and of the EU have been developing with special attention to the borders. In that light, this paper will draw attention not only to the relationship between the EU and the immigration, but in particular to the changes that have affected Europe's borders, both at theoretical and practical levels. …