How to Reconcile the EU Border Paradox? The Concurrence of Refugee Reception and Deterrence

Written by | Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Christof Roos and Giacomo Orsini (Institute for European Policy Studies)

The refugee crisis that broke out in Europe last summer tested the effectiveness of border protection policies and the acceptance of refugees. The Dublin and Schengen rules collapsed mainly due to the chaotic situation in the Balkans. The Dublin regulation establishes the criteria by which to determine which state is responsible for decisions on accepting a refugee and processing of her/his asylum application. In the current situation, this obligation is usually assumed by the first EU Member State whose territory the refugee first arrives in. This naturally shifts a considerable degree of responsibility and burden mainly onto the southern Member States. Some northwestern members also face a stronger influx of immigrants since their legal system is more forthcoming to refugees than what is usual in the rest of the EU.

The EU agencies for border protection and asylum procedures have unfortunately not reached such a level that would allow them to assume the responsibilities of the border states. Some of the EU countries not situated along Union’s external borders moreover use their advantageous position to try to minimize the costs of the common refugee policy even if this means a further lowering of its already poor quality. The plans for the redistribution of refugees that the Member States adopted by the qualified majority are, somewhat paradoxically, faced with the opposition from Budapest, even though these policies were actually designed exactly to help alleviate the burden from Hungary. The quotas are a particularly sensitive topic because they strongly tamper with national sovereignty. Using the qualified majority voting (QMV) to decide on issues of such importance can then be negatively reflected in how legitimate will their conclusions be in the eyes of the European political elites and the population at large.

On the other hand, it should be noted that this method of voting significantly increases the efficiency of EU institutions and their ability to act. The discrepancy between the border policies of the EU countries, which are even often in direct contradiction, still remains the paramount issue. In various EU countries, one can therefore encounter a variety of concepts, ranging from the generous acceptance of immigrants to de facto discouragement of refugee arrivals. It is therefore necessary to unify these rules, which can be achieved particularly by a more complex processing and strengthening of the role of EU-wide strategies as well as by eliminating those refugee policies designed to discourage refugee arrivals. Creating safe zones near the refugees’ homes, such as those temporarily affected by war, would prevent the massive migration to EU states. Most of those fleeing the war often prefer to stay close to their homeland so that they can return there once the conflict is over.

(The study can be downloaded here:

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