Politics of the Schengen/Dublin System: The Case of the European Migrant and Refugee Crisis



The Schengen/Dublin system requiring the first EU member state of entry to take full responsibility for migrants and applicants for asylum has placed an asymmetrical burden on EU border states, resulting in an emphasis being placed on the fight against illegal migration and the reduction of protections for refugees. The system has been explained in terms of intergovernmental decision-making and the dominance of security discourse which enabled member states to block the sharing of burdens. This chapter argues against this approach, grounded in mid-range theory, and finds that the regulatory framework is not due to a particular institutional-discursive setting as such but rather due to deeper causes such as the absence of community policies in areas relevant to migrations and asylum. Research into the interaction between issues, positions, decision-making rules and rhetoric applied on the EU level during the European migrant and refugee crisis of 2015 demonstrates that (a) the sharing of burdens as such was in fact not a disputed issue, (b) that there is broad support for the existing policy among member states and (c) that departure from a veto setting triggered nationalist security rhetoric that deepened the crisis suggesting the role of causes at a deeper level.


Migration Asylum European Union Migrant and refugee crisis Border Intergovernmental Securitization 


  1. BBC. (2015a, April 19). As it happened: Migrant boat disaster. Retrieved from
  2. BBC. (2015b, September 25). Migrant crisis: Why EU deal on refugees is difficult. Retrieved from
  3. Bigo, D. (1996). Polices en réseaux. L’expérience européenne. Paris: Presses de Sciences Po.Google Scholar
  4. Castles, S. (2006). Back to the future? Can Europe meet its labour needs through temporary migration? (Working paper). Oxford: International Migrations Institute.Google Scholar
  5. CEC (Commission of European Communities). (2015a, April 20). Joint Foreign and Home Affairs Council: Ten point action plan on migration (IP/15/4813). Luxembourg. Retrieved from
  6. CEC. (2015b). European agenda on migration 2015—Four pillars to better manage migration. Retrieved from
  7. CEC. (2015c). Proposal for a council decision establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece (COM (2015) 286 final). Brussels.Google Scholar
  8. CEC. (2015d). Proposal for a council decision establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy, Greece and Hungary (COM (2015) 451 final). Brussels.Google Scholar
  9. CEC. (2015e). Proposal for a Regulation […] establishing a crisis relocation mechanism (COM (2015) 450 final).Google Scholar
  10. Demmelhuber, T. (2011). The European Union and illegal immigration in the southern Mediterranean: The trap of competing policy concepts. The International Journal of Human Rights, 15(6), 818–819.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Düvell, F. (2011). Irregular migration. In A. Betts (Ed.), Global migration governance (pp. 78–108). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Espinoza, S. A., & Moraes, C. (2012). The law and politics of migration and asylum: The Lisbon Treaty and the EU. In D. Ashiagbor, N. Countouris, & I. Lianos (Eds.), The European Union after the Treaty of Lisbon (pp. 156–184). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Euractiv. (2015, May 8). Hungary’s PM Orban calls refugee quota plan ‘mad’. Euractiv. Retrieved from
  14. European Council. (2015a, April 23). Special meeting of the European Council [Statement]. Brussels. Retrieved from
  15. European Council. (2015b). European Council meeting conclusions (22/15 CO EUR 8 CONCL 3). Brussels, 26 June. Accessed December 2015.
  16. European Council. (2015c). Action plan and political declaration. Valletta summit on migration, 11–12 November. Retrieved from Accessed December 2015.
  17. European Parliament. (2015). Resolution on the latest tragedies in the Mediterranean and EU migration and asylum policies. 2015/2660 (RSP).Google Scholar
  18. Grabbe, H. (2000). The sharp edges of Europe. International Affairs, 76(3), 519–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Graham-Harrison, E., Kingsley, P., Waites, R., & McVeigh, T. (2015, September 5). Cheering German crowds greet refugees after long trek from Budapest to Munich. The Observer. Retrieved from
  20. Guild, E. (2006). The Europeanisation of Europe’s asylum policy. International Journal of Refugee Law, 18(34), 630–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Guiraudon, V. (2000). European integration and migration policy: Vertical policy-making as venue shopping. Journal of Common Market Studies, 38(2), 251–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hollifield, J. F. (2008). The politics of international migration: How can we bring the state in? In C. B. Brettell & J. F. Hollifield (Eds.), Migration theory. Talking across disciplines (pp. 183–237). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Huggler, J., & Marszal, A. (2015, April 24). Angela Merkel calls for new rules for distributing asylum seekers in Europe. Daily Telegraph. Retrieved from
  24. Huysmans, J. (2000). The European Union and the securitization of migration. Journal of Common Market Studies, 38(5), 751–777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. JHA Council. (2015a, July 20). Outcome of the council meeting. Provisional version, press. 11097/15 3405th Council meeting, Justice and Home affairs. Brussels.Google Scholar
  26. JHA Council. (2015b, September 14). Council decision establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and of Greece, 2015/1523. Brussels.Google Scholar
  27. JHA Council. (2015c, September 22). Council decision establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece, 2015/1601. Brussels.Google Scholar
  28. Keohane, R. O. (1984). After hegemony: Cooperation and discord in the world political economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Keohane, R. O., & Nye, J. S. (1977). Power and interdependence: World politics in transition. Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
  30. King, R. (2012). Theories and Typologies of migration: An overview and a primer. Willy Brandt Series of Working Papers in International Migration and Ethnic Relations 3/12. Malmö: Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare.Google Scholar
  31. Kostakopoulou, T. (2000). The ‘protective union’; change and continuity in migration law and policy in post-Amsterdam Europe. Journal of Common Market Studies, 38(3), 497–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Martin, M., & Macdonald, A. (2015, September 14). Germany re-imposes border controls to slow migrant arrivals. Reuters. Retrieved from
  33. Meyers, E. (2000). Theories of international immigration policy—A comparative analysis. The International Migration Review, 34(4), 1245–1282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moravcsik, A. (1997). Taking preferences seriously: A liberal theory of international politics. International Organization, 51(4), 513–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Moravcsik, A. (1998). The choice for Europe: Social purpose and state power from Messina to Maastricht. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Moravcsik, A. (1999). Is Something Rotten in the State of Denmark? Constructivism and European Integration. Journal of European Public Policy, 6(4), 669–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Moravcsik, A., & Checkel, J. T. (2001). A constructivist research program in EU Studies? European Union Politics, 2(2), 219–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Moravcsik, A., & Schimmelfennig, F. (2009). Liberal intergovernmentalism. In A. Wiener & T. Diez (Eds.), European integration theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Mouzourakis, M. (2014). We need to talk about Dublin: Responsibility under the Dublin System as a blockage to asylum burden-sharing in the European Union. Refugees Studies Centre, Oxford Department of International Development.Google Scholar
  40. Poptcheva, E. M. (2015). EU legal framework on asylum and irregular immigration ‘on arrival’ State of play [Briefing]. European Parliament Research Service.Google Scholar
  41. Sommer, S. (2013). Opening fortress Europe? Constructing a new approach to EU migration policy. Brussels Journal of International Studies, 10, 42–92.Google Scholar
  42. Thielemann, E., & Armstrong, C. (2013). Understanding European asylum cooperation under the Schengen/Dublin System: A public goods framework. European Security, 22(2), 148–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Thielemann, E., Williams, R., & Boswell, C. (2010, January 22). What system of burden-sharing between member states for the reception of asylum seekers? European Parliament, Directorate-General Internal Policies, Policy Department C, Citizens Rights and Constitutional Affairs, Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, PE 419.620. Brussels.Google Scholar
  44. Tichenor, D. (2015). The political dynamics of unauthorized immigration: Conflict, change and agency in time. Polity, 47(3), 283–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Weaver, O. (1996). European security identities. Journal of Common Market Studies, 34(1), 103–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Weaver, O., Buzan, B., Kelstrup, M., & Lemaitre, P. (1993). Identity, migration and the new security agenda in Europe. London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  47. Weinar, A. (2011). EU cooperation challenges in external migration policy, EU-US immigration systems 2011/02. Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute.Google Scholar
  48. Wiener, A., & Diez, T. (Eds.). (2009). European integration theory (2nd ed.). Oxford: Hampshire.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of International Relations (CIR)University of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia

Personalised recommendations