Crisis is a term that has come to define, almost exclusively, how we think and talk about the European Union (EU). It is hard to remember a time when European integration was not seen to be in crisis, from the turmoil over the European Defence Community in the 1950s to the political fallout over the failed European Constitution in the 2000s. The EU’s crises are, on occasion, constructed, by policy-makers who use the last chance saloon of EU summits to talk up the costs of failure and bring attention to their own starring role in brokering a solution. This does not mean that the perceived crises facing the EU aren’t also very real in some cases. EU policy-makers’ capacity to deal with policy problems can have profound implications for people’s livelihoods and their levels of trust in the European project. Nowhere more so than in the case of two of the most important challenges facing the EU at present: Grexit and Brexit. Continue reading

Events since the start of 2015 in the Mediterranean seem to confirm an old truth about EU migration policy, namely its reactive nature. Policy and political élites had to witness another tragedy to open a debate on how to change migration policies. If we look at the first nationalities of people entering irregularly into a European member state in 2014, we note that several of these countries of origin have been in desperate conditions for years now, as in the case of Syria or Eritrea. However, besides the feeling of discomfort about these policies, one could object that, while not bold, this set of policy measures could still be effective. This article looks at the actual novelties included in the package of measures recently released by the Commission, and discusses their likely efficacy. In a well-established pattern, EU policy and political élites seem to perceive what is happening in the Mediterranean along four dimensions: border control, irregular migration, asylum and refugee policy, and (limitedly) legal migration. This way of understanding human mobility is nothing new, as these four categories were already present in the Treaty of Maastricht signed in 1992. The Commission has divided its last package of initiatives into measures to be quickly adopted, and measures for the medium- to long-term. Continue reading