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Common market, normative power or super-state? Conflicting political identities in EU asylum and immigration policy

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Comparative European Politics Aims and scope


Drawing an analogy to the role of immigration policy in processes of state formation, this article argues that the development of common asylum/immigration policies is indicative of the normative tensions implied in the EU’s transition from a regulatory polity towards a political Union. Based on an analysis of key legislative texts from the emergence of common immigration policies until today, it is shown that policy developments are torn between three competing and conflicting political identities. The EU’s traditional ‘market power’ identity anchored in a regulatory approach focused on economic priorities has given way to an uneasy competition between aspirations at ‘normative power’ identity based on universal liberal values and a politically predominant ‘statist’ identity that addresses asylum/immigration policies as a corollary of and challenge to internal community-building and security. While these tensions are characteristic of the ‘liberal paradox’ of democratic states’ immigration policies, they are particularly challenging in the context of an increasingly contested European integration project.

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  1. If there are references to human rights so mainly in view of promoting human rights in countries of origin of asylum seekers and refugees in order to reduce the root causes of forced migration (Commission 1994, p. 22ff.).

  2. Drawing on the principle of non-discrimination, the Court extended free movement rights first to posted workers who were long-term resident third-country nationals employed by European firms under the freedom of services (Rulings 12/86 Demirel [1986] ECR 37/9) and then to long-term resident third-country national from countries with which the EU had signed association agreements containing relevant clauses, such as Turkey and Morocco (rulings C-192/89 Sevince [1990] ECR; I-3461, C-18/90 Kziber [1991] ECR 199).

  3. Charte 4332/00, Draft Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union—amendments submitted by the members of the Convention regarding civil and political rights and citizens’ rights, Brussels 25 May 2000.

  4. See European Parliament, report by Wolfgang Kreissl-Dörfler on the amended proposal for a Council directive on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status adopted in Plenary on 25 September 2005, A6-0222/2005 and UNHCR press release of 30 April 2004.


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This research was supported by the National Center of Competence in Research nccr – on the move funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Sandra Lavenex.

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Lavenex, S. Common market, normative power or super-state? Conflicting political identities in EU asylum and immigration policy. Comp Eur Polit 17, 567–584 (2019).

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