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Changing Borders: The Politics of the EU

Summary and Keywords

Migration has always been a feature of human affairs, though in recent decades it has become a major phenomenon. In fact, the growing diversity of the European population as well as the inevitable changing of borders within the European Union (EU) reveal that Europe has become an immigration continent. These developments have, however, prompted concerns over the EU’s external borders and control of immigration, as well as the need for further inquiry by international relations scholarship. Although the regulation of immigration has received a European dimension only recently, the EU has taken steps to cooperate on the issue of immigration. The changing nature of immigration had, after all, led to a perception among European electorates that immigration was not only a demographic or an economic issue but had other dimensions. It could have multiple impacts on their societies, including welfare, social services and social cohesion. Furthermore, until recently, theories of international migration have paid little attention to the nation-state as an agent influencing the flow of migration. When the nation-state has been mentioned, attention has focused primarily on immigrant-receiving countries. Little has been written about the regulation of emigration in countries of origin. As a result, the role of the state in limiting or promoting migration is poorly understood. Though there is a growing body of scholarship attempting to address these gaps in understanding the EU’s case for immigration, there are still further avenues of research many have yet to pursue.

Keywords: migration, immigration, changing borders, EU’s borders, Europeanization of immigration, international migration, nation-state, emigration


The processes of “deepening” and “widening” within the European Union (EU) have resulted in the conflation of the issues of changing borders and immigration. The tension between the deepening integration of the EU and the enlargement of the Union has been reflected in increasing concerns over the EU's external borders and control of immigration.

The efforts to “deepen” the Single Market since the 1990s, which include the free movement of workers and capital, are linked to immigration in two ways: institutionally and attitudinally (Lahav 2004:4). At the institutional level, deepening integration and elimination of the EU's internal borders require a common immigration policy. The abolition of internal border controls made the member states vulnerable to each other's policies on immigration, refugees, and policing. In order to eliminate the problems of collective action, member states had to formulate a common immigration policy. At the attitudinal level, increasing European integration and the need to formulate a common immigration policy require the identification of “in-groups” and “out-groups” (Lahav 2004:4).

The issue of deepening integration to include immigration and asylum has been complicated by the eastward expansion of the EU to central and eastern Europe. The enlargement of the EU has highlighted the link between security concerns about external borders and efforts to integrate new members. As a result, borders have become a main focus of regulations and policy objectives, since they identify in-groups and out-groups and play an important role in the construction of the EU (Pellerin 2005:105). Due to the implications for free movement of persons and national immigration policies within the EU, changing borders have become increasingly associated with immigration within the public and academic debates on the enlargement and deepening integration of the EU.

Developments at the EU level concerning immigration have also shaped the literature. The ratification of the Maastricht Treaty (also known as the Treaty on European Union) in 1993 created the European Union, deepened policy competence in various fields, and introduced the concept of a “European” citizenship. By strengthening the role of the European Parliament in Community decisions, the Maastricht Treaty made the supranational forces within the EU stronger. The subsequent Treaties of Amsterdam (1997), Tampere (1999), Nice (2000), Laeken (2001) and Seville (2002) accelerated immigration cooperation (Lahav 2004:29).

These developments at the EU level have been followed by an increasing focus on the policy outcomes of EU cooperation on immigration. Several studies have addressed the question of what outcomes immigration cooperation would bring to the EU's external as well as internal relations and what the nature of that cooperation would be (intergovernmental or supranational) (Lahav 2004; Bendel 2005; Lavenex 2005; Monar 2005; Pellerin 2005).

Further developments indicated increasing concerns and vulnerabilities of the EU toward developments on external borders in the face of enlargement and deepening EU integration. These included the “Wider Europe” initiative which was launched on the eve of enlargement in order to counter its possible negative effects, and the Amsterdam Treaty's moving of all justice and home affairs (JHA) matters, including issues such as criminal and civil justice, cross-border security, combating the drug trade and international fraud, immigration and asylum policy, visas and customs, to the first pillar (the old European Community) (Pellerin 2005).

These developments added to the already ongoing conflation of security and integration issues and have resulted in the convergence of immigration literature and the literature on the EU's enlargement and border controls. Within EU policy circles and in public and academic debates, the issues of enlargement and changing borders are equated to the issue of immigration.

The Issue of Migration in Europe

Migratory movements crossing state boundaries are associated with the history of nation-states. While migration has always been a feature of human affairs, it has become a major phenomenon in recent decades. The number of European residents living outside their country of birth grew from an estimated 23 million in 1985 to more than 56 million, or 7.7 percent of the total European population in 2000 (Penninx 2006:7). The demography of Europe demonstrates that Europe has become an immigration continent. According to the analyses of Eurostat, migration has become a more substantial contributor to the growth of the European population than natural growth since 1988. In 2005, a total net migration of 1.69 million contributed more to population growth than 0.327 million natural growth in 25 EU countries (Penninx 2006:7).

Migration and settlement patterns of immigrants, however, are uneven both in time and in space. While some western European countries, such as Switzerland, Belgium, and France, had a history of immigration before World War II, other countries, such as Sweden, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, started their immigration experience after the war. Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Ireland were transformed from countries of emigration to immigration countries from the 1980s onwards. Most of the ten recently accessed EU member states are experiencing emigration, transit migration, and immigration at the same time (Penninx 2006:8).

Globalization has further complicated the picture. Up to the 1980s, the immigrants could be grouped under three headings: (1) migration from former colonies, (2) labor migration as a result of bilateral agreements between the sending and the receiving countries, and (3) refugee migration from eastern Europe to the West. These immigration flows led to a number of geographical patterns of immigration that included Europe, the Mediterranean and the former European colonies. Recent decades, however, have witnessed an influx of immigrants from all over the world to the European continent with varying motives: people working for multinational companies and international organizations, asylum seekers from African and Asian countries, skilled workers from all over the world, and undocumented workers from the African countries (Penninx 2006:8).

The result is a heterogeneous Europe and the issue of immigration becoming part of the public debate in Europe. The changing nature of immigration led to a perception among European electorates that immigration was not only a demographic or an economic issue but had other dimensions. It could have multiple impacts on their societies, including welfare, social services and social cohesion. When political parties discovered that the concerns of their electorate provided valuable material for political mobilization, the issue of immigration became part of the political debate. While most western European states followed an elite-led pattern of policy formation with regard to immigration until the early 1970s, migration issues became the subject of party political debate in the 1980s and 1990s (Boswell 2003:3).

In the wake of the above developments, research on immigration in Europe has expanded over the course of time. Ruud Koopmans and Paul Statham (2000) categorize the literature prior to the recent resurgence of academic interest in migration into three main research topics: migration studies and integration policy approaches, migrant associations and collective action, and extreme right politics and xenophobic mobilization. Following the trends in the migration phenomenon itself, much of the literature focused apolitically on social structural, socioeconomic, and demographic aspects of migration flows until the 1970s. In the 1960s and 1970s, the scholarly research focused on one particular flow of migrants. Starting from the 1980s, more comprehensive research was undertaken, but immigration research still could not free itself from national contexts in terms of both funding and conceptual framework (Penninx 2006). It was dominated by policy-centric accounts focusing on elite concerns. Based on statistics drawn from official sources and using methodologies designed to collect information for state bodies, these approaches saw migrants as passive objects of policies. Focusing solely on social and economic integration of migrants, they explained the presence of migrants as the result of economic and demographic cycles, giving no consideration to non-elite actors or political processes (Münz et al. 1997).

Contrary to the elite-based, apolitical nature of the research conducted till the 1990s, a group of scholars began to focus on domestic and international political processes in an attempt to answer the question of what factors determine the immigration policies of the states. The shift of focus from the demographic to the policy dimension of immigration marks the start of a new era in immigration literature. Two main approaches prevail among the research which criticizes the apolitical nature of the prior research: those looking at domestic politics to understand the immigration policies of states, and those looking at international variables.

Domestic versus International: An Ongoing Debate on the Immigration Policy-Making Process of Nation-States

Until recently, theories of international migration have paid little attention to the nation-state as an agent influencing the flow of migration. When the nation-state has been mentioned, attention has focused primarily on immigrant-receiving countries. Little has been written about the regulation of emigration in countries of origin. As a result, the role of the state in limiting or promoting migration is poorly understood. Although scholars have explored national immigration policies (Kubat 1979; Dib 1988; Cornelius et al. 1994), and conducted case studies of state agencies (Morris 1985; Calavita 1992), during the 1990s few scholars attempted to describe the behavior of bureaucrats and politicians with respect to immigration in theoretical terms. Since 1990, however, a body of theoretical knowledge has accumulated to describe the role of the state and focus on the policy-making process (Massey 1999).

By bringing the notions of sovereignty and citizenship into the debate on immigration, Challenge to the Nation-state: Immigration in Western Europe and the United States (Joppke 1998) fills an important gap in the literature and focuses on domestic factors to explain the policy-making process of nation-states. The questions are raised of nation-states’ ability to control access and enforce immigration policy and the challenges of multiculturalism and postnational citizenship – a term coined by Yasemin Soysal (1994).

As an answer to the question of how capable nation-states are of controlling immigration, Joppke's introductory essay argues that nation-states still have the upper hand in dealing with immigration. He criticizes the arguments that international constraints have reduced states’ ability to control immigration and that postnational citizenship challenges existing forms of national citizenship within Europe. He sees this as a transitional phenomenon and states that only by analyzing domestic politics such as economic interests and ethnic lobbies can we understand the government responses to immigration (Joppke 1998; Sassen 1998).

The literature on the question of what drives policy making on immigration within the EU member states does not provide a coherent answer. Guiraudon's (1998) analysis focuses on elite decisions as the main explanatory variable for the changing immigration policies of EU states. She argues that it is the decisions of the political elite that account for the expansion of immigrant rights cross-nationally, not pressure from mobilized immigrant groups. According to Favell (1998a), what shapes Britain's policy making on immigration is the political reaction to the immigrant communities and the real or anticipated threats they pose to the public order. Randall Hansen's (2000) analysis of immigration and citizenship in postwar Britain explains the change in British immigration policy by looking at attachment to bipartisanship between the Conservative and Labour parties; the distribution of power within the ruling Conservative Party; continued attachment to a Commonwealth ideal; and opposition from within government, particularly from the Colonial Office.

Contributing to the body of knowledge on the domestic sources of immigration policy, Massey (1999) argues that immigration policy is the outcome of a political process through which competing interests interact within bureaucratic, legislative, judicial, and public arenas to construct and implement policies that regulate the flow of migration. Shughart et al. (1986) identify three key interest groups that formulate immigration policy: workers, capitalists, and landowners. Workers want high wages and they pressure the politicians to pass more restrictive laws to limit the supply of labor. Capitalists, on the other hand, favor expanding labor supply to reduce wages, and they pressure politicians to relax enforcement of restrictions. Landowners favor immigration as a means of increasing rents and thus pressure policy makers to increase the supply of labor through immigration.

Foreman-Peck (1992) likewise focuses on different interest groups in order to advance a theory of state policy formulation. He assumes that immigrants are mostly unskilled and that unskilled workers lose most when immigration expands. On the other hand, owners of complementary factors of production (capital, land, and skills) can be expected to gain through immigration. He argues that during periods when real wages are falling, workers exert pressure for restriction, whereas during periods when wages are rising, restrictionist pressures from workers decrease, while expansionist pressures from capitalists, landowners, and skilled workers increase. Foreman-Peck does not test his model empirically but contributes to the literature with his theoretical framework.

Massey (1999) detects three factors that shape states’ immigration policy. He states that even though doubt remains about which economic conditions are most relevant, it is obvious that a country's macroeconomic situation plays an important role in shaping its immigration policy. Periods of economic distress, Massey argues, are associated with moves toward restriction, whereas economic booms are associated with expansive policies. A second factor that influences the policy making on immigration is international flows. Massey points out that higher rates of immigration generally lead to restrictive policies. A third factor is the ideological currents in society. Massey argues that immigration policy is associated with broader ideological currents in society. During periods of social conformity, immigration policy tends toward restriction, while during periods of support for open trade and intense conflict along ideological lines, it tends toward expansion. Unlike other works reviewed here, Massey goes one step further and makes a prediction about the immigration policies of states. He argues that, looking at the current state of affairs in the world, developed countries will increasingly move to restrict in-migration from the developing world, even as they act to lower barriers to movement among themselves. He applies his conclusion to the European Union and states that although passport controls have been eliminated among states within the EU, recent economic and political trends suggest a more restrictive immigration policy regime in the next century.

Christina Boswell (2003) outlines both domestic and international factors that determine migration policies, focusing on Germany, Italy, and the UK. She argues that since the 1970s when most western European countries followed an elite-led pattern of policy formation, the issue of policy making on immigration has become complicated. Starting from the 1970s, migration issues became the subject of party political debate. Today the policy-making process is shaped by various domestic and international factors. She outlines organized interests of different segments of society and national constitutional provisions as domestic sources of pressure on the process of migration policy formulation, while treating EU institutions and the European integration process as international factors. Contrary to the general tendency within the literature to treat immigration policy making as a monolithic process, Boswell treats the policy making on labor migration and asylum seekers separately. Her book fills an important gap in the literature on immigration, which is mostly definitive and atheoretical. She brings ideology into the equation and analyzes in detail the role of ideology in immigration policy making. She uses the term “ideologies of migration,” which she defines as “patterns of political and social thought which shape thinking on a range of questions linked to migration, such as concepts of citizenship and belonging, rights and responsibilities of members, and obligations toward nonmembers” (p. 6). She argues convincingly that in order to understand patterns of inclusion and exclusion in migration policy, we need to look at individual countries – not just at their legislation, but also at their party politics, political institutions, ideologies of migration, and popular discourse on immigration. Her book not only provides an empirical analysis but also a theoretical framework, a combination which is hard to find in the current literature on immigration.

Teresa Hayter’s work (2004) also considers ideology as an important variable in explaining different immigration policies. Looking at the issue from a humanitarian point of view, Hayter demonstrates why immigration controls should be abandoned. Using Britain as her case, she argues that the main historical phases of immigrant controls in Britain are the result of extreme right-wing ideology, not economic imperatives. Although Hayter provides detailed analysis of the British case, her work lacks empirical richness. The volume edited by Christian Joppke and Ewa Morawska (2003), on the other hand, is rich with case studies. The volume challenges the multicultural and postnational perspectives adopted by scholars like Yasemin Soysal (1994) in two directions, by looking at state policies and immigrant practices. Turning away from multicultural perspectives, the book emphasizes assimilation and citizenship. In the first chapter, Joppke and Morawska argue that states have responded to immigration by either liberalizing their citizenship regimes or improving the rights attached to citizenship. In both cases, they argue, citizenship was reasserted as the dominant membership principle. Regarding the practices of immigrants, they state that there is no evidence that assimilation is not occurring. They demonstrate the existence of two different trends: the adaptation and use of host-society resources, and the maintenance of “transnational” linkages with the society of origin. Both the resilience of citizenship and the simultaneity of assimilation and transnationalism are explored in this volume through comparisons between Europe and the United States.

Despite the abundance of studies on domestic determinants of migrant policy making, it is surprising to see how little consideration has been given to identity construction processes as explanatory variables in policy making. The book edited by Didier Bigo and Elspeth Guild (2005) makes an important contribution to the literature in two ways. First, it focuses on the identity construction processes, a dimension that has been neglected in the literature. Second, it provides a theoretical framework for analyzing the issue of immigration. The book follows some of the main hypotheses of Foucault concerning power relations and examines the process of identity construction by focusing on the discursive formations. Delving into the discourse of “class war” and revealing the complex relationship between poverty and ethnicity, citizenship and foreignerness, each chapter analyzes the techniques of border controls and surveillance, the methods of identification and their impact on citizenship, the structuration of an “us/them” vision with an (in)securitization of migrants in the role of enemies, the criminalization of the poor within society, and the “alienization” of their image as outsiders. As articulated in the introductory chapter by Bigo and Guild, the articles in the book are not filled with empirical data since the focus is more theoretical. The authors, however, assure the reader that the findings are based on long in-depth research by the contributing sociologists and political scientists. The book provides a theoretically rich contribution to the atheoretical immigration literature.

Contrary to the arguments that look at domestic factors in order to explain the determinants of immigration policy making, a group of scholars have looked at the factors outside the domestic arena to explain migration policies. Barbara Marshall (2000) explains the German government's development of more exclusionary control policies regarding ethnic Germans, refugees, and asylum seekers as the result of the refugee and asylum crisis of the 1990s. She argues that the crisis stemmed from the disintegration of the Iron Curtain and the Balkan wars, coupled with the reluctance of the EU to accept burden sharing to resolve the crisis. The debates concerning the crisis produced negative repercussions for migrants and integration. Although Marshall provides detailed descriptions of facts throughout the book, her work remains descriptive and lacks sustained analysis.

A group of scholars, such as Yasemin Soysal (1997), Cathie Lloyd (2000) and Adrian Favell and Andrew Geddes (2000), have looked at the emergence of the transnational level of political authority and its implications for political approaches at national and subnational levels. Challenging the predominant conceptions of citizenship, which are predicated upon nationally defined political communities, Soysal focuses on the shifting boundaries of the political vis-à-vis citizenship, the global entrenchment of the “individual rights” discourse, and the changing narratives of belonging and identity. All these transformations, she argues, pose a challenge to our conceptions of citizenship with regard to how the boundaries of the public space are defined, what the basis of social integration is, and who the participants are. Soysal argues that public spheres are realized intra- or transnationally; solidarities are shaped beyond national boundaries. She asserts that the referent is no longer exclusively the national citizen but an abstract individual entitled to claim the collective. She states that these changes have led to two significant patterns in terms of claims making. First, political communities take shape independently of nationally delimited collectives at different levels, such as local, national, and transnational. Second, forms of community, participation, and solidarity connect groups to broader agendas and globally dominant discourses. To verify her arguments, Soysal derives empirical evidence from the postwar migration experience of Muslims in Europe. Her empirically and theoretically rich work takes the literature away from the focus on the nation-state as the sole determinant in the immigration process and gives the immigrant group a voice as an important actor in shaping this experience.

Both state-centric and transnational approaches to immigration policy making raise further questions. Making the argument that the conditions within which immigration policy is made are imbedded in domestic politics requires incorporation of the notion of sovereignty into the debate if one wants to analyze the issue within the EU framework. While member countries have made progress in transferring sovereignty to the EU for the migration of EU nationals, especially after the incorporation of the Schengen Convention, they have not developed a common policy with regard to non-EU nationals (Koslowski 1998). Lahav argues that efforts to create a common EU immigration policy expose a major dilemma of the EU: “how can liberal democracies reconcile efforts to control the movement of people with those to promote open borders, free markets, and liberal standards?” (Lahav 2004:2). The picture gets even more complicated if one looks at different outlooks and policies of the member states on the issue of immigration. These differences are a function of a combination of historical factors. Each member state has its own way of dealing with the issue of immigration. Even the definition of “immigrant” changes from member state to member state. The EU's desire to standardize these different policies makes the picture even more complex (Lahav 2004:5).

Then the question becomes: can the member states of the EU, which have historically adopted different immigration policies as a result of different domestic or international dynamics, cooperate on immigration? If they can, what will be the outcome?

The volume edited by Dan Corry (1996) argues that cooperation on immigration is necessary but the question still remains: is it possible? After placing the European migration problem in a broad historical context and analyzing the evolution of European cooperation on migration policy through the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, Hans Korno Rasmussen (1997) concludes that a common EU immigration policy is unlikely in the near future. Grete Brochmann (1996) takes Rasmussen's argument one step further and explores why it has been so hard for the EU member states to harmonize their immigration policies. In answering this question, Brochmann distances herself from those scholars who focus on international factors as key explanatory variables in migrant policy making. She argues that the de facto movement toward a demographic “fortress Europe” has not been something imposed by Brussels but has come from the actions of individual member states.

Europeanization of Immigration

Although the regulation of immigration has received a European dimension only recently, the EU has taken steps to cooperate on the issue of immigration. Andrew Geddes (2003) differentiates four periods of the European integration of immigration policies. The first period is from 1957 to 1986 and was characterized by “minimal immigration policy involvement” in national immigration policies. Although the period experienced significant cooperation in this policy area, immigration policies were mainly shaped by national governments. The second period is from 1989 to 1993 and was characterized by “informal intergovernmentalism.” During this process the member states were engaged in closer cooperation in the immigration field. The third period, from 1993 until 1999, was shaped by the Maastricht Treaty's “formal intergovernmental cooperation.” Although the treaty considered immigration issues as being of common interest and ensured cooperation, the policy area of immigration remained strictly intergovernmental. The final period, which begins with the Amsterdam Treaty in the late 1990s, is characterized by “communitarization.” Both the provisions of the treaty and subsequent efforts by the Commission and the member states resulted in increasing supranationalization of this policy area. The EU has experienced greater integration in immigration policy making in the last 30 years (Ette and Faist 2007).

As articulated by Andreas Ette and Thomas Faist (2007), academic scholarship on the European integration of immigration policies has been meager. Despite the attention that the subject has received in the European studies field (see, for example, Weidenfeld and Wessels 2005), students of immigration policy have only started to focus on the European level quite recently. They have mainly focused on national immigration policies (Hammar 1985; Heckman and Bosswick 1995; Thränhardt and Miles 1995). Starting from the 1990s, an increasing number of studies started to focus on the European integration of immigration policies (Monar and Morgan 1994; Favell 1998a; Koslowski 1998; Den Boer 2000; Geddes 2000; Tomei 2001).

The literature on the reasons for the increase in European cooperation on immigration is divided into neo-functional and intergovernmental theories by Ette and Faist (2007). According to the first school of thought, represented by Keohane and Nye (1977), states seek international solutions to domestic problems in an increasingly global world. This approach explains EU cooperation on immigration as an imperative in a globalized world, where the ability of states to control immigration decreased significantly because of economic imperatives and international legal norms (Soysal 1994; Sassen 1999; Faist 2000).

The second line of thinking takes a state-centric and intergovernmental perspective on the European integration on immigration policy. The main frame of reference in this line of scholarship is the nation-state, which is considered to have the power to control and regulate migration. As outlined in the previous section of this essay, state-centric approaches are divided on the issue of the policy-making processes of nation-states. According to a group of scholars including Hix (2005) and Moravcsik (1993), the cooperation of the nation-states on immigration policy can be explained by exogenous pressures stemming from growing international migration and crime. They argue that these factors cause convergence of national interests and provide a precondition for cooperation. According to this approach, the EU provides the framework for member states to cooperate by reducing transaction costs (Ette and Faist 2007). Another group of scholars focuses on domestic factors instead of exogenous factors in explaining the cooperation among states. From this perspective, public opinion, extreme right-wing parties, economic actors, and ethnic groups shape the immigration policy-making process (Castles and Kosack 1985; Freeman 1995; Joppke 1999; Thränhardt 1999; Lahav 2004;). They argue that the development of a common immigration policy is the result of the national political elites’ efforts to avoid domestic political constraints by shifting to a new level offered by the EU.

Despite the progress toward developing a common immigration policy, nation-states are still the main actors in the immigration policy-making process. The limited cooperation on immigration that has occurred at the EU level has created restrictive policy outcomes (Lahav 2004; Lavenex 2005). The tension between “deepening” and “widening” has been translated into a fear of the “out-groups” and thus a “politics of exclusion” (Lavenex 2005:123). In the face of changing boundaries, the EU could not avoid the creation of “sharp edges” in Europe, which has resulted in an exclusive immigrant policy, construction of “hard borders,” and turning the EU into a “gated community” (Houtum and Pijpers 2005).

The Study of Immigration: Directions for Future Research

The scholarly works on immigration have illustrated that international migration and integration of immigrants have become important issues in Europe. Considering the economic, political, and social reasons to emigrate, the aging population of Europe, and increasing demand in the labor market in an increasing number of sectors that cannot be met by local labor force, immigration will persist and increase in the coming decades (Penninx 2006). Due to the forces of globalization, the phenomenon of migration has changed in recent decades. The European governments lack the necessary understanding of this new phenomenon to develop a coherent policy. Both the public debate and the political discourse are dominated by old analytical concepts and terminology. As stated by Rinus Penninx (2006), the content of public discussions is dominated by normative undertones. The mismatch between the traditional norm of not being an immigration country and demographic facts that reflect the growing presence of immigrant communities create misperceptions among European societies. It is therefore necessary to conduct theoretically grounded empirical research on the issue of immigration.

Despite growing interest in the literature on the European integration of immigration, the literature on the issue of Europeanization of national immigration policies still remains limited. Although there are exceptions, such as Lavenex (2005) and Lahav (2004), key questions remain to be answered. What is the extent of the European impact on national immigration policies? If the EU influences the member states’ immigration policies, what is the nature of that influence? The literature on the Europeanization of immigration mainly focuses on refugees and asylum, but what about the impact of the EU on other categories of immigration, such as family unification and labor migration? Europeanization has different effects on member states in various policy areas, but what about its effect on immigration policy? Is it also differentiated? If so, how do we explain this difference? (Ette and Faist 2007).

The literature provides contradictory evidence on these questions. Some scholars argue that the EU plays an important role in national immigration policies (Thielemann 2002), while others do not consider the EU as an important determinant (Vink 2005a). These contradictory findings are the result of the lack of systematic empirical research on the topic. The available studies are mostly descriptive and do not provide an insightful analysis into the driving forces of the European impact on the member states. Ette and Faist (2007) provide an outline of the shortcomings of the current literature. While a number of volumes with single country studies on immigration make a contribution to our understanding of national immigration policies in different countries, they lack an analysis of the role of the EU in the multilevel governance of immigration (Angenendt 1999; Brochmann and Hammar 1999). The role of the EU in initiating changes in national policies is covered by single country studies (Tomei 2001; Fischer et al. 2002; Geddes 2005; Vink 2005b). Those studies that were conducted into the role of the EU have focused more on issues such as naturalization, immigration control, citizenship, and integration (Uçarer and Puchala 1997; Guiraudon 2000), and have dealt mostly with policy outputs. With the exception of the work of Gallya Lahav (2004), most of the literature lacks an analysis of policy input. Lahav provides an attitudinal analysis of immigration. With the politicization of the issue, public opinion has become much more important in shaping policy making in the area of immigration. Therefore, analysis of attitudes is important in understanding the dynamics of immigration policy making.

Despite differences in topical focus, the works in the literature on immigration in Europe share an atheoretical approach. With the exception of few studies on the topic, such as the edited volume by Didier Bigo and Elspeth Guild (2005), Lavenex (2001), Geddes (2003), Lahav (2004) and Grabbe (2005), the literature is highly descriptive and lacks a theoretical framework. The review of the studies conducted on the topic reveals that lack of systematic comparison is another problem that the study of immigration is facing.

Penninx et al. (2006) reports that the challenge lies on different levels. The first level is that of basic administrative data used by researchers. It is argued that cross-national comparability of simple data on immigration is problematic. Administrated data are collected within an institutional context for specific purposes. There are two problems in using such data: do they measure the same phenomenon? Are they representative? The second level is the level of the design of comparisons. Chapter 9 of the same edited volume states that the kind of comparison we choose to make relates to the questions we want to answer. A research design that compares different ethnic groups in a national community will automatically focus on the variables within these immigrant populations, while a design that compares the same ethnic community within different national contexts focuses on the variables within that national context. The researchers should develop a method that combines different forms of design in such a way that they are complementary. The third level is that of concepts and terminology. The same concepts are applied to different national contexts, which creates a common problem in social sciences that is called the “traveling problem.” Since concepts are derived from specific national contexts, the researchers should be careful in applying them to different settings. A second problem with regard to the concepts and terminology is that some concepts get a normative connotation that makes it hard for scholars to use them. Multiculturalism, assimilation, and integration are such terms. Therefore it is imperative to design analytical frameworks that would allow researchers to operationalize the concepts in such a way that empirical data can be collected in the same way in different contexts.

The study of immigration has traditionally been conducted by a limited number of disciplines, such as law, economics, and anthropology. Other disciplines, such as political science, came into the literature very late. The immigration literature in the 1960s is characterized by its economic perspective. Since immigration in western Europe in the 1960s was mostly the result of labor migration and the migrants were viewed as guest workers who would return home soon, the literature was mostly engaged in the study of immigration as an economic issue. Starting from the 1970s, with family unifications, the profile of the immigrant community changed. It was not composed of male workers any more, but included women and children, which carried the issue from a solely economic level to a social level. The new immigrant community came with new needs that required different perspectives. The literature followed the immigration phenomenon itself and disciplines such as sociology started to inquire about the immigration issue. Globalization and the European integration have complicated the issue further, bringing concepts such as transnational citizenship and the Europeanization of immigration into the literature. Today the issue of immigration has multiple dimensions and cannot be handled by one discipline. It should be studied in a multidisciplinary way. Rinus Penninx (2006) argues that cooperation among various disciplines in the study of immigration should be carried out at two levels. The first is to create multidisciplinary organizational structures which bring disciplines together. The second level is to implement multidisciplinary projects in which such cooperation is built into the design and integrated into the analysis.

Penninx makes another observation on the state of the art of migration research which is shared by this author: the fact that almost all research focuses primarily on migration, immigrants and their integration, while little attention has been given to the societal systems into which these immigrants are to be integrated. Most of the literature has studied the effect of migration on societal structures from the perspective of the sending countries. In order to understand the dynamics of immigration and integration, researchers should focus more on the effects of immigration on the core structures of European countries. How have immigration and the migrants shaped and changed the institutional structure of the receiving European countries? What is the effect of immigration on European countries’ education and healthcare systems? How are the various social realms, such as religion, politics, economics, mass media, science, arts and sports, affected by the immigration experience? By answering these questions, the literature can take several social levels into account.

Analyzing the immigration policy-making process requires taking different levels of analysis into account. Neither purely state-centric approaches nor international/transnational arguments provide us with the real picture. Giving no consideration to the sub-state or transnational factors, state-centric approaches fall into the fallacy of structural determinism. Avoiding the nation-state as an essential actor in policymaking process, international/transnational arguments eliminate an important variable from the equation. The policy-making process is very complex and requires the blending of different approaches.

Immigration has implications for the economy, politics, foreign relations, and social relations as well as cultural reproduction and state legitimation. Uncovering the dynamics of immigration, therefore, sheds light on the most important relationships and forces within and between European societies. The books reviewed here are a base upon which we can build such an endeavor, but they may also act as catalysts for change towards more theoretically grounded, empirically sound studies.


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