Immigration has taken on renewed prominence in both domestic and international politics. Typical approaches to this pressing theoretical and policy problem, however, focus on either domestic politics (e.g., filling labor needs and integrating migrants into society) or international relations (e.g., international law or norms regarding the treatment of migrants). In this sense, work on immigration has coalesced around two ways of seeing this problem, one micro, one macro, and neither one related to foreign policy. This is particularly unfortunate given that a foreign policy approach—grounded in “mid-range theory,” an “actor-specific” approach, and a sensitivity to factors both above and below the state level—has the potential to add a great deal to our understanding of immigration in IR. A review of the literature reveals two approaches to immigration in IR. The first, largely grounded in the methods and assumptions of political economy, focuses on the “pull” or demand factors that incentivize and regulate migration to a receiving country. The second focuses on “push” factors that drive people from their homelands. This latter approach concentrates on displaced populations, human rights norms, and institutions and cooperation among states. Both approaches contribute a great deal, but are, unfortunately, isolated from each other: an outcome that is at least partly attributable to an arbitrary and politically expedient distinction between “refugees” and “ economic migrants” that countries found it in their interests to make in the aftermath of World War II. This discussion of immigration and foreign policy thus begins by surveying the theoretical and empirical landscape and providing a framework with which to understand contributions thus far. The following section will highlight three major themes emerging in an innovative new body of research. Fundamentally, these themes revolve around integration: whether it is the integration of security into immigration studies (typically dominated by an economics-based approach), of identity concerns into the public’s immigration preferences, or a focus on the multiple actors located in between the domestic public and international regimes. Suggestions for future research will conclude our discussion.
Anna Oltman and Jonathan Renshon
Natascha Zaun and Christof Roos
EU immigration policies have incrementally evolved from a purely intergovernmental to a deeply integrated EU policy area. In practice, EU immigration policies and EU secondary legislation still leave significant discretion to the Member States, as witnessed by key developments in the various subfields of immigration policies—including policies on border protection, return and irregular migration, as well as labor migration and family migration policies. The key academic debates on EU immigration policies have mainly focused on explaining the decision-making processes behind the adoption of EU policies as well as their impact on national policies. While scholars find that these EU policies have led to liberalizations in the areas of family migration or labor migration, the irregular migration and border policies of the EU have gradually produced more restrictive outcomes. Policy liberalizations are usually based on the impact of EU institutions, which tend to have more liberal positions than Member States. Lowest common denominator output at the EU level, such as on the Blue Card Directive, is usually due to a resistance of individual Member States. With deeper integration of the policy area over time and qualified majority voting, however, resistant minorities have been increasingly outvoted. The stronger politicization of some areas of immigration, such as family migration, has also led the European Commission to curb its legislative proposals, as it would be much harder to adopt a piece of legislation today (2019) that provides adequate protection standards.
The topic of populism in foreign policy is receiving growing attention in academic and public discourse as populist parties and movements proliferate around the world. Yet foreign policy analysis (FPA) scholars interested in the role of populism in foreign policy have to deal with a concept that is notoriously slippery and contested. The existing literature on populism and foreign policy has already offered interesting insights. Focused primarily on Europe, it usually applies the conceptualization of populism as a thin-centered ideology that attaches to thicker ideological traditions and reformulates them in terms of the elite-people divide. Following this conceptualization (that is today the dominant framework for the comparative analysis of populism, particularly in Europe), this literature argues that populist parties of the right have foreign policy positions that reflect their nativism, opposition to immigration, focus on national sovereignty, and rejection of economic and cultural globalization. Populist parties of the left on the other hand reject in their foreign policy positions neo-liberalism and open markets. Together, European populist parties of all persuasions are Eurosceptic, anti-American, and usually pro-Putin’s Russia. Highlighted are the breadth of critical and discursive approaches on populism that scholars of populism and foreign policy can use, particularly because they have been applied successfully to cases outside of Europe, where populists have long held political power and have influenced foreign policy in practice. Such conceptualizations commonly view populism as a reaction to crises of political representation engendered by dislocations caused by globalization and other shifts in international politics. These dislocations will take different forms, but populism in the West and populism in the Global South can be seen, despite more specific differences of outlook, at the very least as a specific type of reaction to concurrent political and economic crises in a rapidly denationalized and deterritorialized world. In this context, most populist foreign policies reflect a preoccupation with popular sovereignty and unmediated projection of popular demands and national interests outside of established processes of global governance. Populists will also tend to perceive and analyze foreign policy issues through the lens of the elite-underdog opposition. Populism is commonly associated or conflated with nationalism (especially in the case of the European radical right) and isolationism, but in practice this does not always have to be the case. The “people” for whom populists speak in international affairs can very well transcend national borders, as evidenced, for example, in the foreign policies of Hugo Chavez and Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who aimed to represent transnational constituencies like the Global South, the Islamic world, the world poor, etc. And while populists generally eschew commitments to broader milieu goals of the international system, they can still engage with foreign affairs if they see immediate material benefits. The same goes for trade: populists (particularly in the United States) are seen usually as ideological protectionists, but most often they do not mind striking trade deals if these favor their interests (see, e.g., Donald Trump’s discourse on this issue). In terms of theoretical and methodological advancements, foreign policy scholars interested in populism are urged to embrace the large variety of conceptual approaches on populism (ideological, critical, discursive) and to build on the growing literature on cross-regional comparison of populist politics, something particularly pertinent in a world characterized by the presence and prominence of populism in almost all world regions.