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With what implications? An assessment of EU migration governance between Union regulation and national diversity

Emma Carmel


The analysis of EU migration policy has been focused primarily on evaluating its relationship to EU law, or its application to individual member states. This article argues that neither focus can address the full implications and effects of EU migration governance. The Union’s migration and free movement policies set out to organise populations both within and beyond its formal borders. They are part of the broader governance of the European Union as an integrated market, and as an international policymaker. As such, the characteristics and effects of migration governance across the EU as a whole need to be assessed. At the EU level, EU policy and law on migration creates the illusion of policy coherence, applied to all member states, incomers and residents. Yet these apparently coherent EU policies always co-exist with three confounding factors: 1) national and local variation in migration, integration and social policies; 2) national and local labour market variation, particularly in the role of informal economy, and 3) profound member state hierarchies in the EU’s political economy, reinforced by the ongoing crisis. However, this does not mean that the EU’s migration policymaking is irrelevant to member states. Rather, migration governance in the EU is co-produced by the cross-cutting and sometimes contradictory policies of other actors. With its illusion of policy coherence, this co-produced governance both disguises and entrenches significant hierarchy among member states. It contributes to an EU polity which manages diversity through inequalities.


European Union; migration; free movement; inequality; governance; crisis

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