Academic journal article Migration Letters

With What Implications? an Assessment of EU Migration Governance between Union Regulation and National Diversity

Academic journal article Migration Letters

With What Implications? an Assessment of EU Migration Governance between Union Regulation and National Diversity

Article excerpt


The analysis of EU migration policy has been focused primarily on evaluating its relationship to EU law, or its application to individual member states. This article argues that neither focus can address the full implications and effects of EU migration governance. The Union's migration and free movement policies set out to organise populations both within and beyond its formal borders. They are part of the broader governance of the European Union as an integrated market, and as an international policymaker. As such, the characteristics and effects of migration governance across the EU as a whole need to be assessed. At the EU level, EU policy and law on migration creates the illusion of policy coherence, applied to all member states, incomers and residents. Yet these apparently coherent EU policies always co-exist with three confounding factors: 1) national and local variation in migration policies; 2) national and local labour market variation, particularly in the role of informal economy, and 3) profound member state hierarchies in the EU's political economy, reinforced by the ongoing crisis. However, this does not mean that the EU's migration policymaking is irrelevant to member states. Rather, migration governance in the EU is co-produced by the cross-cutting and sometimes contradictory policies of other actors. With its illusion of policy coherence, this co-produced governance both disguises and entrenches significant hierarchy among member states. It contributes to an EU polity which manages diversity through inequalities.

Keywords: European Union; migration; free movement; inequality; governance; crisis


This article sets out to analyse and evaluate the socio-political and socioeconomic implications of intensified and expanded EU policymaking on migration. It asks: How does EU migration governance link Union and member state (MS) policies?

The article argues that the EU's involvement in migration policies and politics matters to individual member states and their residents, and that a critical anlaysis of the implications of this involvement is imperative. The empirical puzzle addressed by the article starts from two conditions. On the one hand, we have a plethora of directives, treaty law and an increasing body of case law which are explicidy designed to shape the legal meaning, terms and conditions of migration in the EU. On the other hand, we see an extraordinary diversity of migration patterns among and between member states (MS),1 as well as marked variety in regulation, shaped by the interactions of political economy and welfare, regulatory capacity and xenophobic politics at both national and local levels. These two central features of the population politics in the Union - EU-level 'migration management' co-existing with national state diversity - are further rendered complicated and indeterminate by the ongoing consequences of the financial, economic and sovereign debt crises.

Much of the discussion in EU migration policy has concerned itself with explaining (mostly political science) and evaluating (mostly EU legal scholars) the rapidly emerging set of directives, regulations and programmes which make up the substance of EU migration policy. As a result, the focus in key literatures has been on explaining why member states have permitted or preferred the development of EU-level policies on migration; or on evaluating the Union's expanding jurisdiction in migration in the context of increasing institutionalisation of EU-level law-making. At the same time, studies on national migration politics discuss EU-level activity in a rather patchy manner, usually as a generalised contextual feature in analyses of migration in border areas of the Union, of developments in border control or of political economy (Lavenex, 2006; Ruhs and Anderson, 2010; Caviedes and Menz, 2011). This article instead focuses on the socio-economic and political implications of the articulation of MS and the Union in migration governance as a whole. …

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