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The “Evolution despite Itself” in EU Labour Migration

Christof Roos
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Christof Roos
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Open Panel

Abstract

Immigration policy is held to be “a prime expression of the sovereignty of states” since it determines admission and exclusion of non-members of a state (Joppke 1999: 17). Consequently, attempts to forge an immigration policy at the EU level met with resistance (Menz 2009; Geddes 2008). For example, a proposed policy on labour migration was stalled and faced decision making deadlock (Héritier 1999). Nevertheless, “the evolution despite itself” in the policy area of EU legal migration (Interview Brussels 2009, European Policy Centre) occurred and EU policies on skilled migrants such as students, researchers and highly qualified workers were adopted. The paper addresses the question how actors were able to achieve common ground on the issue of EU labour migration? Theoretically, I assess this question by applying a variant of sociological organisation theory which focuses on policy making and output in order to understand how diverging interests are incorporated by decisions of political organisations. Decisions are often only partially meant to be implemented leading to decisions that are vague and small (Brunsson 1989). This aspect of scaling down decisions and diverting their content to a lot of intentional talk and little committing action is crucial in explaining how a “common” EU labour migration policy was achieved. Agreement came at the price of ‘selectivity’. EU legislation on skilled migrants, such as highly qualified workers, researchers, and students suggests that common agreement was only possible because the object of regulation was kept very small and narrowly defined. If such selectivity is the condition for EU immigration regulation one could predict that further developments in the policy field will bring about a system of plenty and extremely differentiated migratory categories. One can already see that entry and stay conditions vary enormously between the categories of skilled migrants at the top and categories low-skilled migrants at the bottom. Literature: Brunsson, Nils. The Organization of Hypocrisy. New York: Wiley, 1989. Geddes, Andrew. Immigration and European Integration. Beyond Fortress Europe. Edited by Simon Bulmer and Mick Moran. 2nd ed, European Policy Research Unit Series. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2008. Héritier, Adrienne. Policy-Making and Diversity in Europe. Escape from Deadlock. Edited by Robert E. Goodin, Theories of Institutional Design. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Joppke, Christian. Immigration and the Nation-State: The United States, Germany, and Great Britain. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999. Menz, Georg. The Political Economy of Managed Migration. Nonstate Actors, Europeanization, and the Politics of Designing Migration Policies. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.