Open and Shut Cases: Irregular Migration Management and Policy Convergence in the European Union
McNamara, Kathleen R
Why have European states adopted similar approaches to managing irregular migration? Existing explanations of migration policy development posit that the relative political power of interest groups that are favorably or adversely affected by migration determines the content of policy outputs. Given substantial heterogeneity in the power of relevant interest groups across European states, the fact that they have adopted similar approaches is surprising.I argue that this convergence is the result of European integration, even though governance of migration has been a jealously guarded prerogative of national governments. Specifically, I posit that the proposed creation of a borderless travel area raised (unfounded) concerns that divergent national migration policies would engender greater irregular migration. Powerful member states which held this belief threatened to exclude their unconcerned partners from the benefits of integration into the Schengen Area and made accession into it contingent on the adoption of their preferred coercive approaches to managing irregular migration. This engendered convergence even in the absence of binding EU legislation. Beyond the specific case of the Schengen Area, I argue that beliefs in externalities and threats of exclusion are two factors which shape the integration of any group of states. They thus form the central components of my novel “neo-intergovernmentalist” theory of integration.To assess the validity of my arguments, I execute a mixed-method research design. First, I develop a typology of approaches to irregular migration management. I then construct a novel dataset which codes the irregular migration polices adopted by 16 European states from 1945 to 2016. Using this dataset, I show that European states converged towards what I call punishing and suffocating approaches over time and that reliance on these approaches is correlated with membership in the Schengen Area. In turn, using original archival sources, I examine the evolution of inter-state negotiations regarding irregular migration. I demonstrate that beliefs in externalities and threats of exclusion best explain why convergence occurred in contrast to potential alternative explanations. Altogether, my findings contribute to our understanding of migration policy development, policy diffusion, and inter-state integration.
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