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Small States and the Big European Migration Crisis: The Open Borders Challenge



The article analyses EU small states' border policies in response to the European migration crisis from the summer of 2015 to March 2016, when the Western Balkan route was closed. Migration system theory and the theory of policy convergence are applied to study migration from a small-state perspective. Changes within the EU system and their influence on such states' border policies, the difference between destination and transit small states, along with small states' foreign policy strategies are addressed in particular. The dilemma for small states is between harmonising with the established EU policies or projecting autonomy by making certain unilateral moves while dealing with migrant flows at the borders. This article contributes to the scarce literature on migration from a small-state perspective, especially by analysing the experiences and dilemmas they share and the challenges arising from migrations. Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Denmark and Sweden are used as case studies.
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Đana LUŠA*
Abstract. The article analyses EU small states’ border
policies in response to the European migration crisis
from the summer of 2015 to March 2016, when the
Western Balkan route was closed. Migration system the-
ory and the theory of policy convergence are applied to
study migration from a small-state perspective. Changes
within the EU system and their influence on such states’
border policies, the difference between destination and
transit small states, along with small states’ foreign pol-
icy strategies are addressed in particular. The dilemma
for small states is between harmonising with the estab-
lished EU policies or projecting autonomy by making
certain unilateral moves while dealing with migrant
flows at the borders. This article contributes to the scarce
literature on migration from a small-state perspective,
especially by analysing the experiences and dilemmas
they share and the challenges arising from migrations.
Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Denmark and Sweden are
used as case studies.
Keywords: migration crisis, EU, small states, migration
system theory, theory of policy convergence
Introduction and methodology
Migration is a global phenomenon occurring through time and space.
It poses a challenge to contemporary world politics, visible, among other
things, from the United States and the European Union proceeding to
toughen their border controls to influence migration flows. The EU has been
almost paralysed by the international disagreement about the massive influx
of migrants2. In the last two decades, migration has reached extremely high
levels and reflects several unsettled issues in need of addressing by academic
research. This article studies migration from a small-state perspective by
1 This research was funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union – the Jean Monnet
Networks project “Navigating the Storm: The Challenges of Small States in Europe”.
2 The author uses the term migrants for all categories of people who leave home to seek a new life in
another region or country regardless of the causes of this decision.
* Đana Luša, PhD, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb, Croatia.
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applying an existing theoretical framework. Migration system theory and the
theory of policy convergence are used to explain European small states’ bor-
der policies in response to the European migration crisis (from early summer
2015 to March 2016, when the Western Balkan migration route was closed).
Small states (particularly small island developing states) have encoun-
tered several geographical challenges arising from their small land masses,
fragmentation, peripherality, remoteness and isolation. On top of this come
social challenges stemming from small populations, limited institutional
and human capacity, and economic challenges due to the limited size of
domestic markets, openness, export concentration, and strong dependency
on the global economy. Finally, one should also mention environmental
challenges, manifested in susceptibility to natural disasters and rising sea
levels. In the past, small states were affected by migrations in the forms of
brain drain, international recruitment, intra-country/regional migration
or free movement within regional trade agreements, as well as migration
induced by environmental change (Hope Khonje, 2015: 1–4). The European
migration crisis placed different challenges before small states, which
became transit or destination countries for the immense flows of migrants.
Certain outcomes of migration have become dominant issues in IR studies,
such as the rise of radical political movements, populism and securitisation.
However, the study of how small states are affected by migration remains in
its infancy (Pace, 2018). Therefore, one goal of this article is to help rectify
the paucity of small-state studies problematising migrations, especially in
relation to the EU framework and the European migration crisis.
The article addresses the following questions:
1. Is there policy convergence between small EU states’ border policies
and the Schengen Agreement?
2. How have changes within the EU system influenced small member
states’ border policies?
3. Is there a difference in the border policies of transit and destination
small states? Which push and pull factors may be detected in the process?
4. Which foreign policy strategies have small states applied in response to
the European migration crisis?
The author believes that different small states’ border policies are the
outcome of varying degrees of convergence with EU rules and norms
(explained using the theory of policy convergence), dissimilar positions,
and changing elements in the EU migration system (addressed by migra-
tion system theory). Despite the positive initial impulses and welcoming
policies, the sheer number of migrants challenged the entire EU system,
reflected in a lack of coordination and unilateral policies partly out of step
with the Schengen Agreement.
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A qualitative research approach is applied with analysis linked to relevant
theories presented in the article. The following categories were assigned
based on the research questions: (1) distinct border policies in relation to
the Schengen Agreement; (2) changing elements within the EU system; and
(3) push and pull factors.
According to Zielonka (2016), border management within the EU
resembles a “neo-medieval empire with frontiers and overlapping circles
of authority and allegiance”. This externalisation of migration controls is
seen as the “EU’s goal to delocalize control outside of a state’s sovereign
territory”. Therefore, hardening the external borders has become a major
priority of the EU to compensate for having relaxed the internal borders
(Bunyan, 1993). This process is visible in the Schengen Agreement frame-
work with growing visa restrictions, tightening of immigration controls and
ever wider data collection. The Dublin Regulation adhered to this logic by
stipulating asylum-seekers must apply for asylum in their first country of
arrival. These are typically small states on the EU’s periphery, seen as being
forced to share the heaviest burden of the migrant crisis (Mainwaring, 2011:
7). According to Helbling et al. (2013: 4), immigration policies are state-
ments agreed upon by member states concerning what to do or not do in
terms of laws, regulations, decisions or orders relating to non-EU citizens.
The Schengen Agreement provides for the temporary reintroduction of bor-
der controls where there is a serious threat to public policy or internal secu-
rity. In this article, harmonisation with the Schengen Agreement (1) will be
determined by small states’ adherence to Article 26 and 27 of the Schengen
Border Code which provides that states cannot unilaterally and at their own
discretion reintroduce border controls. A member state must notify other
states and the European Commission to justify the reintroduction and wait
for the Commission to issue its opinion. “Every state needs to make a rea-
sonable claim regarding the likely impacts of any threats to public policy
or internal security, including those posed by organized crime” (European
Parliament, 2016: 9). Varying levels of convergence with the established
rules and norms will be explained using the theory of policy convergence.
Changing elements within the EU system (2) will be traced by analysing the
development and responses to the migration crisis. To determine the push
and pull factors (3), Thielemann’s (2011: 2) reasoning will be applied. Strict
border and migration policies will represent push, while more moderate
ones will represent pull factors, resulting in the analysed state becoming a
transit or destination area (data on asylum-seekers will also be used).3
3 The qualitative research conducted by Lucy A. Oloo in 2018, published as a master’s thesis, enti-
tled Dealing with the Refugee Crisis: Border Positioning of EU Member States in Relation to the Schengen
Agreement and the Dublin Regulation, is of particular interest to author. The study examines the distinct
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By applying the two theoretical frameworks and mentioned elements of
analysis, the article focuses on the border policies of small Schengen Area
member (Slovenia, Austria, Denmark and Sweden) and non-member states
(Croatia). All of these countries are categorised as small states by the United
Nations, taking 10 million and less as the population cut-off point.
Theoretical framework
The first theoretical concept applied in the paper is policy convergence,
defined by Holzinger and Knill (2005: 777) as the “growing similarity of pol-
icies over time”. This similarity can be evaluated using different indicators
like the degree of convergence, scope and direction of convergence (ibid.:
779). Speaking of the degree of convergence, the paper focuses on policy
outputs, i.e. the border policies adopted by five governments (agents) react-
ing to the pressure of problems and legal obligations (ibid.). For EU mem-
ber states dealing with the migrant crisis, the Schengen Agreement repre-
sents a common set of rules requiring harmonisation. The states are legally
required to adopt similar policies as part of their obligations as members
of international institutions, which according to Drezner (2001: 60) means
sacrificing some independence for the good of the community.
Zaiotti (2011: 8) contends that Common external controls were “a logical
response to the removal of internal borders and the creation of the internal
market”. Thielemann and Dewan (2006) think “regional cooperation and
harmonization of asylum policies can “be seen as an effort to responsibility-
share or responsibility-shift”. Brekke and Staver (2018: 2165) perceive it as
a responsibility-shifting strategy as the Dublin Regulation entails the obliga-
tion to register, process and house new arrivals in the country of first entry.
In the case of small states, this brings a dilemma between autonomy and
influence, with small states seeking to expand their influence over the great
powers through international organisations. However, participation also
reduces political autonomy (Goetschel, 1998: 17). According to Wivel (2005:
408), the EU “aggravates this dilemma by increasing the potential costs
and benefits of institutionalization”. A small EU state facing this integration
dilemma surrenders some autonomy and risks entrapment or retains its
autonomy and runs the risk of abandonment. Small states should therefore
focus their attention on strengthening the EU policy on transnational secu-
rity problems such as immigration. If successful, this strategy would create a
unique platform for small states to coordinate a common effort of member
border positioning of Greece, Croatia, Denmark and Germany as a challenge to the Schengen Agreement
and the Dublin Regulation. It served as a starting point for this article which focuses on analysing border
policies from the perspective of small EU member states and the implications it holds for small-state studies.
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states (ibid.). In this article, the dilemma is between harmonising with the
established EU policies (theory of policy convergence) or projecting auton-
omy by making certain unilateral moves while dealing with migrant flows at
the borders and reacting to changes occurring within the system (migration
system theory).
The second theoretical approach employed in this paper is migration
system theory with its focus on structure, linkage and process (King, 2012:
20). It derives from general systems theory and can be applied to different
levels of analysis: from village migration systems (Mabogunje, 1970), the
European labour migration system (White and Woods, 1980: 49–55) through
to the world systems theory (Wallerstein, 1979). The system approach
sees migrations as an interdependent process whereby changes in one
part of the system are felt throughout the rest of the system (King, 2012;
Mabogunje, 1970). Therefore, systems can be self-feeding, self-regulating or
self-modifying (King, 2012: 20). The author believes this causes very differ-
ent responses to shocks (different border policies), as was demonstrated
during the European migration crisis.
Applying Bakewell’s reasoning (2014: 310), the migration system pre-
sents “a set of interacting elements” such as flows of people, ideas and goods;
institutions and strategies. Bakewell’s approach became the foundation of
migration system theory in the 1990s with its analysis of the dynamic within
a migration system. He defines the way “in which the elements (flows, insti-
tutions and strategies) change in relation to changes in both these system
elements and in the wider environment” (ibid.) Thus, while using system
theory the author finds it crucial to consider the ways in which border pol-
icy as an element is a product of migration system changes.
First and foremost, the article questions how changes in the system
(migration pressure) influenced the policies of individual small member
states at their borders. According to Magobunje (1970: 3), one of the main
tasks is to identify the basic interacting elements within the system, their
attributes and relationships. From there it becomes clear that the system
operates in a special environment with which it constitutes a universe of
phenomena. The article is particularly interested in how migration chal-
lenges at the EU level have influenced the way small states have dealt with
migrants on their borders. Namely, during 2015 and 2016 the inability of
national systems to keep up with the high migrant numbers resulted in the
exceptional reinstatement of controls at the EU internal borders.
Small states will in particular be distinguished according to whether
they are transit or destination states (Bakewell, 2014). Whether a state will
become a destination for migrants depends on its asylum policy, economic
situation and the real/perceived image of the destination country (push and
pull factors) (Inter-Agency Regional Analysts Network, 2016: 198). For every
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origin and destination country there is a set of positive and negative fac-
tors influencing migration. Aside from push factors in origin countries that
cause people to leave their country, such as fear of political persecution,
wars, natural disasters or poverty, there are strict immigration and border
policies in destination countries which can discourage migrants from com-
ing. On the other hand, people may be attracted to a certain location by pull
factors such as peace and safety, greater job opportunities, better education
and a better standard of living in general (Segaran and Yahya, 2018: 139). In
the article, the pull factors are more generous immigration policies and less
strict border policies (Thielemann, 2011: 2).
Schengen Agreement in the middle of the crisis
The idea of a border-free Europe was launched in 1984 at a meeting of
the European Commission President and national heads of state and gov-
ernment in Fontainebleau. The core founding states of France, Belgium,
Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands agreed in 1985 to sign the
Schengen Agreement. This led to creation of the Schengen Area that set out to
gradually abolish internal border controls (Official Journal of the European
Communities, 1985). It was supplemented by the Schengen Convention
in 1990, which proposed the complete abolition of systemic border con-
trols and a common visa policy, as well as police and judicial cooperation.
EU cooperation on migrations started in 1992 when the Maastricht Treaty
brought home affairs into the EU institutional framework, including migra-
tion and asylum. However, the Schengen Agreement and related rules were
originally envisaged as operating independently of the EU. The Agreement
and its implementing Conventions were signed by all EU member states
(except Ireland and the United Kingdom) in 1997 and the Schengen acquis
was incorporated into EU law. Until then, it had been part of intergovern-
mental cooperation. The Agreement itself brought migration and asylum
issues more in line with community decision-making (Parkes and Pauwels,
2017: 12).
According to Zaiotti (2011: 2), the Schengen Agreement “became the
symbol of a sui generis entity, functioning as a socializing arena. It presented
a common space where goods, capitals and individuals could circulate
freely”. In this article, the Agreement is perceived as a harmonisation tool
for member states. The Schengen area’s complexity lies in the fact that 22 of
the 28 member states fully participate and implement the Schengen acquis.
Ireland and the UK were provided with opt-outs, while Denmark applies
the Schengen acquis (however as part of international, not Union, law).
Then there are Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Croatia, which do not belong
to the Schengen area, but apply some or all of the Schengen acquis, and
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must still maintain controls along their internal borders (Pascoau, 2016). As
Schengen constitutes the core part of EU law, “all EU member states, which
have not joined the Schengen Area, are legally obliged to do so when they
meet the criteria”.4
In 2013, negotiations on the Schengen Governance Package reform
started. It all ended with the European Parliament acquiring certain co-
decision powers, while the European Commission obtained more scrutiny
powers in assessing the member states’ “compliance with the Schengen
Borders Code (SBC)5 and the proportionality, necessity and impact of the
reintroduction of internal borders” (European Parliament, 2016: 9). Articles
23–29 of the SBC permit the introduction of internal border controls in
exceptional circumstances. Under the 2013 reforms, more detailed rules on
the criteria and the time limits were required. Article 25 allows “the rein-
troduction of internal border controls for up to two years” where “serious
deficiencies” are detected at the external borders (ibid.). Although more
detailed rules on criteria and time limits were introduced, the imposing of
border controls cannot be constructed as a unilateral step by member states
unless they receive a recommendation from the Council and a proposal
from the Commission. Under the pressure of such migration, some small
states disobeyed these rules. That the entire Schengen system is a “myth
very difficult to maintain” was demonstrated by the European migration cri-
sis 30 years after its launch and almost 20 years since it started opening out-
wards (Pascoau, 2016: 1–2). The problem with all states introducing border
controls was the distinct shortage of details given, as required in Article 26.
Although the Schengen Agreement does not completely ban internal bor-
der controls, Kiefer (2015: 27–28) notes that an influx of migrants is not an
exception found in Article 26.
Need for more union in the Union: response to the
migration crisis
The EU worked over three decades to harmonise its asylum and migra-
tion laws, with the aim to leave all member states well prepared to absorb
migrations. This all finally ended with harmonious common laws and
norms being transferred beyond the EU’s borders. The 2015 migration crisis
confronted member states with issues they had been looking for an escape
from in Schengen (Parkes and Pauwels, 2017: 35–36).
4 Accessible at
en, 1. 1. 2019.
5 The Schengen Borders Code governs the abolition of internal border controls, including the condi-
tions and procedures for their reintroduction, and the uniform control of external borders.
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The crisis also challenged the EU’s abilities, from border management
to humanitarian assistance. There were obvious tensions between member
states wishing for more EU intervention, and those invoking their sover-
eignty. Instead of the EU acting as a single network of actors, ever more
member states started to develop their own crisis-management mechanisms
(Collett and Le Coz, 2018: 4–6). Aside from the humanitarian crisis, the policy
crisis was manifested with EU and national leaders being unable to agree on
a collective answer. Moreover, the EU’s institutional and legislative mecha-
nisms proved inadequate for handling the crisis. Even when the EU-Turkey
Statement was signed at the European Council meeting in Brussels in March
2016, many thought it represented “another experiment on the part of the
EU institutions in operationalizing a response to a complex, multilateral pol-
icy challenge” (ibid.: 20).
Many European countries have shown they are not ready to accept
migrants into their societies. Several reasons explain this. First, Europe as
a community has become less welcoming in past years. Then, EU member
states could not agree on common migration policies to help share the bur-
den. With the new redistribution scheme launched in May 2015, requiring
a number of asylum-seekers to be distributed fairly across the EU states, the
EU showed a willingness to resolve the crisis via joint efforts and a supra-
national paradigm. It also acted as a sign of solidarity and dialogue with
the member states (Brljavac, 2017: 101). However, many EU states were
not ready to cooperate for the sake of supranational causes, claiming that
participation in the joint plan should be voluntary. The reason for such a
stance may be found in the migration crisis becoming politicised and secu-
ritised. Another reason is “a complete sense of ignorance of the Western
European countries towards the countries which carried the highest burden
of migrations” (ibid.) According to Lehne (2016), the EU’s institutional and
legislative mechanisms were not up to dealing with such a crisis. “There is a
possibility either of more Europe, less Europe or a new core of committed
member states emerging” (ibid.).
Small states attempted to respond with ad hoc policies when a compro-
mise on a sustainable collective approach by the authorities of the destina-
tion counties and the EU could not be reached. These responses included
reintroducing border controls and security checks along their national
boundaries within the Schengen area. This period was marked by ever more
tense bilateral relations not only among the non-EU states in the region, but
also among member states. This led to some of them amending relevant
legislation and sending the military to the national borders, as well as by
building walls and fences, with others yet entering a bilateral trade war and
closing border crossings (Knezović and Grošinić, 2017: 13).
In 2015, member states reported over 1.8 million irregular border
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crossings along the EU’s external borders, namely six times more than in
2014. Aside from member states along the Central Mediterranean Route
and those on the Eastern Mediterranean route, the member states along the
Western Balkans route were the most affected by these irregular crossings
in 2015. The European migration crisis escalated with migrants from the
Middle East opening up the Balkan route running through Turkey, Greece,
Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary. It all started with Greece and Italy, which
were soon overwhelmed by the migration wave, allowing migrants fur-
ther into Europe without identifying or registering them. In 2016, the EU’s
external borders continued to withstand great pressure. Although arrivals
were significantly lower than in 2015, over 511,000 illegal border crossings
were reported (Standard Eurobarometer 85, 2016). After Germany guaran-
teed to take in 800,000 asylum-seekers and announced its application of the
humanitarian clause as part of the Dublin Regulation, some Western Balkan
countries were transformed into transit zones (Pascoau, 2016: 3).
The following section analyses the five small states’ border policies in
reaction to the migration crisis. Three elements will be addressed in particu-
lar: (1) distinct border policies in relation to the Schengen Agreement; (2)
changing elements within the EU system; and (3) push and pull factors.
Croatia: protector of the EU’s external border?
Croatia, as a country positioned between the Mediterranean, Central
Europe and the Balkans, has shown some trends of both immigration and
emigration (Knezović and Grošinić, 2017). However, prior to the migrant
crisis, its system and policies had never been tested in practice due to the
small number of immigrants and asylum-seekers.
Aside from the aftermath of the war in Yugoslavia, Croatia had not been
a destination country for migrants. Before 2013, it had around 1,000 persons
seeking asylum annually, and these numbers dropped to only a few hun-
dred per year after the accession. Located at an entry point of the Western
Balkan route, in 2015 Croatia was faced with hundreds of thousands of peo-
ple crossing its borders onwards into Western Europe. According to Šelo
Šabić and Borić (2016: 17), “no statistically significant number of migrants
intended to stay, nor did Croatia want them to stay”. It positioned itself as
a transit route for migrants, allowing them to proceed into Hungary and
Slovenia, stopping them for several hours for registration only (Bakewell,
2014). Croatia was challenged by the need to manage the registration of
applicants for international protection. It reported being unable to meet
its duties under the Eurodac Regulation related to applicants’ fingerprint
records. On some occasions, this led to the Dublin Regulation not being
applied (EMN Annual Report, 2016: 15). Croatia established a “headquarters
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for activities coordination” as a response to the influx of migrants, which
ensured the smooth and organised transport of migrants arriving in the
country in 2015 (ibid.: 58).
In 2015, it registered just 140 first asylum applicants, making it last among
the EU member states, while this figure increased to 2,150 in 2016, or a share
of 0.2 percent of the total applications made in the EU (11th place). It had
34 applications in 2015 per 1 million inhabitants (last place in the EU) and
513 in 2016 (18th place). These figures show its position as mainly a transit
country, which is in accordance with some of the push factors it demon-
strated prior to and during the crisis (letting migrants pass through to other
destination countries, low employment rates, general economic situation)
(Eurostat, 2016). In addition, according to a survey conducted in 2013 and
published by the Centre for Peace Studies (Representation and Indicators of
Discrimination and Xenophobic Attitudes in the Republic of Croatia), refu-
gees and asylum-seekers were the third-most unwanted group in Croatia6,
which may also serve as a push factor7. According to the Eurobarometer sur-
vey from November 2016, 70% of Croats supported a common European
policy of migration, and only 41% felt very positive regarding the immigra-
tion of people from outside the EU (Standard Eurobarometer 86, 2016).
At the outset, Croatia decided to maintain open borders, provid-
ing another push factor for migrants not to stay in the country. Between
September 2015 and 5 March 2016, around 2 million migrants entered
Croatia. After arriving in Greece via the Mediterranean Sea, they continued
towards the Republic of North Macedonia and onwards to Serbia, re-enter-
ing the Schengen area in Hungary. The border protection policy, affecting
the asylum policy, as required by the Dublin Regulation, was suspended.
However, after Hungary decided to construct a fence along the Serbian bor-
der on 16 September 2015, which resulted in diverting the flows of migrant
towards Croatia, the Croatian government closed seven out of eight border
points with Serbia. Serbia then closed its border off to Croatian goods. These
policies demonstrate small states’ reaction to elements changing within the
system, according to migration system theory (Gyori, 2016: 41–42). Still, the
bans were lifted after several days.
On 16 October 2015, after Hungary had built a fence along its border
with Croatia, migrants were redirected to Slovenia (Šelo Šabić and Borić,
2016: 11). These unilateral moves threatened potential unrest in the still
turbulent Western Balkans region (between Croatia and Serbia, as well as
between Greece and the Republic of North Macedonia). Castells (2008: 88)
6 Accessible at
pdf, 3. 12. 2018.
7 More on public attitudes to migrations in Croatia is available in Luša, Bašić and Rukavina (2017).
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
claims governments under pressure did not share the same interpretation
of common policies (Gyori, 2016: 41–42). The flip side of the reaction to
changes in the system was seen during the winter of 2015 when Western
Balkan states coordinated their migration policy and actions in response to
Slovenia’s request to redirect migrants from non-war-torn countries back to
Croatia (Šelo Šabić and Borić, 2016: 4). The Western Balkan states jointly
decided to allow transit only to migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
This is one example of how a regional compromise and coordination, repre-
senting one of a small state’s key foreign policy strategies, can be achieved.
The route was closed in March 2016.
Prior to becoming an EU member state in July 2013, Croatian laws were
harmonised with EU standards and legislation. Croatia joined the European
Asylum System that prevents asylum-seekers moving around the EU (via
the Dublin Regulation). As an EU member, Croatia is obliged to implement
the common EU provisions and measures in this specific field, maintain-
ing autonomy in decisions on the number of immigrants and asylum-seek-
ers accepted (Jurlina and Vidović, 2018). Regardless of all countries in the
region having the basic legislation and rules of procedure in place due to
their EU accession processes, the migration crisis actively challenged each
state’s institutional and management capacity. Their efforts to minimise the
costs and share the burden in a collective attempt to solve the crisis opened
up the possibility for mutual accusations. In a situation where EU member
states were unwilling to reach an elementary compromise to ensure a joint
EU response to the crisis, small states in the region found it very difficult to
cope with this challenge (Knezović and Grošinić, 2017: 12). Croatia’s passing
of migrants on to other EU states and their improper registration indicated
that its border measures were out of step with the Schengen Agreement and
the Dublin Regulation, according to the theory of policy convergence.
Slovenia: a small state on the Schengen border
Slovenia was largely focused on the security dimension and organisational
issues during the migrant crisis. From 16 October 2015 until the end of the
year, Slovenia became a transit country for over 378,000 people. After Austria
reintroduced border controls along the Hungarian border on 16 September
2015, Slovenia feared that “a significant part of migration could be directed
towards them” (European Parliament, 2016: 108–109). Pressure mounted
after Hungary closed its border with Serbia, redirecting the route through
Croatia and Slovenia. Both countries feared being forced to accept a dispro-
portional burden (Šelo Šabić and Borić, 2016: 16). Due to the Hungarian bor-
der’s closure, Slovenia became one of the transit countries for migrants. “It
was obvious that the Slovenian government was logistically unprepared to
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register and accept migrants, and it did not consider that Croatia would not
be willing to accept them if returned” (Vezovnik, 2018: 42).
Then Austria proposed a daily intake of 2,500 asylum applicants, apply-
ing pressure to southern small states to take up part of the burden. With
individual border crossings and rail traffic being blocked, Croatia started
transporting people to various places along the green border to prevent
them from staying in its territory. The migrants were crossing the Slovenian
border uncontrolled, with 21,000 people entering the country in a single day
on 21 October. Between 17 October and the end of November 2015, almost
300,000 migrants entered Slovenia (Bučar and Lovec, 2017: 122–124). Many
were stranded there after the Balkan corridor was closed in March 2016,
and with increased oversight along the Austrian-Slovenian and German-
Austrian borders, which led to a massive increase in the number of asylum
applications. However, most applicants left Slovenia before the process had
finished. In 2015, Slovenia had 275 first asylum applications, holding 24th
place among EU member states, with the figure rising to 1,265 in 2016 (22nd
place overall). In 2016, this accounted for 0.1% of all asylum applications in
the EU. When looking at the number of applications per 1 million people,
Slovenia was 23rd in 2015 and 16th in 2016 among EU members. This shows
Slovenia mostly positioned itself as a transit country (Eurostat, 2016).
According to Vezovnik (2018: 47), there has been “an intensification of
stereotyping, xenophobia and discriminatory speech” directed at anything
or anyone foreign in Slovenian public discourse since the country’s inde-
pendence. Migrants were described as numerous, a mass arrival a crowd of
hundreds, which held the potential to distort the real scale of social prob-
lems and trigger feelings of fear. Then “the discourse of a migration crisis
cutting deep into Europe and Slovenia, results with a construction of a bor-
der culturally differentiating us by them” (ibid.). In September 2015, Prime
Minister Miro Cerar stated: “Our actions are based on humanity and solidar-
ity, but also on safety”, which demonstrates the positive self-representation
of Slovenians. The discourse also included the criminalisation of migrants,
being divided into the categories of ‘genuine’ and those seeing the mass
migration as an economic opportunity (ibid.: 48). This transformed migrants
into deviants who need to be brought under control. Finally, the construc-
tion of migrants as criminals provided a point of departure for securitisation
(Bigo, 2002). According to the Eurobarometer survey from November 2016,
69% of Slovenians supported the common European policy on migration,
and only 28% felt very positive regarding the immigration of people from
outside the EU (Standard Eurobarometer 86, 2016). These results reveal
some of the push factors for migrants. As concerns some pull factors, meas-
ures to improve attainment in the education system were adopted (EMN
Annual Report, 2016: 50).
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
Slovenia introduced border controls from 17 September to 26 September
2015 and from 27 September to 16 October 2015. In its notification, Slovenia
identified the uncontrollable migration flows in the region and its neigh-
bours introducing border controls as a threat to its national security (EMN
Annual Report, 2016). Prime Minister Cerar made it clear: “Slovenia is the
guardian of the border, and not only of Slovenian border. It is committed
to protecting the Schengen border. It is also the guardian of the European
border” (Vezovnik, 2018: 49).
Yet the procedures adopted could not work in practice because Croatia
was unwilling to readmit migrants who had illegally crossed the Slovenian-
Croatian border. Slovenia then “introduced a parallel regime, setting up a
corridor of basic reception areas, registration procedures and the transfer
of migrants to the Austrian border” (ibid.: 42). During that process, Slovenia
called for all member states to ensure the appropriate level of border con-
trol in line with Schengen standards. Slovenia reintroduced border con-
trols at its border with Hungary from 17 October until 16 November 2015.
Unable to cope with the mass inflows and aiming to protect the Schengen
border, Slovenia amended its Defence Act on 21 October 2015, allowing
armed forces to engage in protection of the state border. Moreover, it started
installing razor wire alongside its border with Croatia on 11 November 2015.
Namely, Slovenia as a Schengen member state, had appealed for the applica-
tion of border control rules, especially in the case of neighbouring Croatia
(Šelo Šabić and Borić, 2016: 15–16). All of the above constitutes a reaction
to changes within the EU system, particularly to policies conducted by other
member states.
These actions were taken after it became obvious the agreement negoti-
ated by leaders of the Western Balkans in a summit held in Brussels on 25
October 2015 had failed to work. Further, the European Union’s aid regard-
ing the migrant situation had been insufficient (Vezovnik, 2018: 42). The
situation culminated in Prime Minister Cerar drastically announcing on 25
October that “if we don’t find a solution today, if we don’t do everything
today, then this is the end of the EU as such” (Šelo Šabić and Borić, 2016: 17).
Austria and Germany, as the primary destination states, insisted on full
implementation of the Schengen provisions along the external border (the
border between Slovenia and Croatia). This request was quite challenging
with that border representing almost half of all land borders of the country,
thus requiring additional police and military forces. Being unable to respond
to such an immense inflow, Slovenia closed the border with a fence in most
sectors (Zupančič, 2016: 115). Due to the modest control of arrivals, which
necessitated a detailed check, records of documents and security checks,
in the spring of 2016 Austria decided to re-establish physical police and
military surveillance on its border with Slovenia and Hungary (ibid.: 116).
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
Regarding border controls, Slovenia “was in and out very quickly, although
it did not examine too carefully the requirements as regards the grounds
for reintroduction of border controls” (European Parliament, 2016: 43).
Its justifications amount to “bare assertions without any evidence” (ibid.),
which makes the border measures implemented partly out of line with the
Schengen Agreement.
Austria: a small transit and destination state
Austria was hit by the migration crisis at the end of August 2015. It shifted
from being a transit country to a destination country after the end of the
Cold War and in anticipation of the country’s accession to the EU and the
Schengen Area. At the outset of the crisis, it served as a transit country to
Germany or other member states, partly due to the length of the asylum
application procedure. It faced a lack of reception capacity, which led to
the establishment of emergency reception structures in 2015 (EMN Annual
Report, 2016: 15).
One of the causes of the vast inflows was Hungary’s decision to sus-
pend the Dublin II Regulation and allow migrants on their onward journey.
The Austrian Interior Minister personally welcomed migrants at the central
train station, assuring them of the country’s support and their safe onward
travel. Austrian public discourse was explicitly distanced from Hungary’s
decisions. They criticised Orban’s “politics of waving through” and the erec-
tion of the border fence on the Hungarian-Serbian border. The cooperation
with German Chancellor Merkel was enforced and allowed the Austrian
government to reactivate the narrative of mainly being a transit country.
Germany and Austria coordinated and signalled safe passage for refugees
into Western Europe, with Germany as the primary destination (Gruber,
2017: 48). This shows a small state’s policy of alignment with a bigger neigh-
bouring country in an attempt to find a common solution to a crisis, sharing
resources and expertise.
The open-door policy has been a pull factor for migrants. In 2016, Austria
took measures to improve attainment in the education system, enhance
migrants’ language skills, promote labour market integration while also
adopting legislation pertaining to anti-discrimination. However, only 35%
of Austrians felt positively towards the immigration of people from outside
the EU in the spring of 2016, while 59% supported the common European
policy on migration (EMN Annual Report, 2016: 16). The initially welcoming
attitude began to change upon the erection a border fence on the south-
ern border with Hungary in September and October 2015. After Germany
decided to introduce border controls along its Austrian border and shut
down train services in mid-September 2015, tensions within the Austrian
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
government coalition increased. The ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) forced
the Chancellor to place a border control mission on Austria’s eastern border
with Hungary (Gruber, 2017: 48), envisaging border controls to be possible
at any time at all land and air border crossing points (EMN Annual Report,
2016: 56). It shifted the migrant transit route towards the border between
Austria and Slovenia. Despite having a history of being a bridgehead for
migratory flows into Western Europe, the growing inflow of migrants led
to disparate political reactions of its Austrian Grand Coalition government,
as well as by civil society. By the end of 2015, Austria’s initial welcoming
approach had turned into a closed border approach (Gruber, 2017: 39). It
received 85,505 first asylum applicants in 2015, occupying 4th place in the
EU, and 39,860 in 2016 (5th position). In total, this amounted to 6.8% of all
first asylum applications in the EU in 2015. In terms of the number of appli-
cants per 1 million people, Austria held 3rd place in 2015 and 2nd in 2016,
which clearly shows its role as a destination country (Eurostat, 2016). Yet,
taking all the numbers into account, one may conclude that Austria was both
a transit and a destination country during the European migration crisis,
with the number of asylum claims ranging from 300 to 400 a day (Hettyey,
2017: 94). In 2016, Austria established a ceiling of 1.5 percent of the popula-
tion for the number of asylum-seekers to be admitted into the procedure
(EMN Annual Report, 2016: 2) Growing scepticism in public opinion and
critical coverage by tabloid media influenced a more restrictive approach
vis-à-vis asylum-seekers and neighbouring countries in order “not to over-
strain” the population, which also served as a push factor.
The shifting of the migration route from Hungary to Croatia and Slovenia
in October 2015 saw Austrian change its focus to its southern border.
Germany temporarily decided to process refugees at the Austrian border
in blocks, producing a tailback of refugees at the Austro-Slovenian border
and the remaining countries along the Balkan route. Soon ÖVP demanded
“an end of the welcoming policy” (Gruber, 2017: 49). While examining the
southern border, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner stated that “we have
to build a Fortress Europe” (Rheindorf and Wodak, 2018: 25). This was fol-
lowed by Austria erecting physical obstacles along the border with Slovenia
on 27 November 2015. Its open-door policy pursued up until the end of
2015 had been unsuccessful because it signalled that refugees might come
and be taken care of, acting as one of the pull factors (Hettyey, 2017: 96–97).
Austria set a symbolic precedent for the Schengen area by re-establishing
the very first fortified border, separating two countries within the Schengen
area (Gruber, 2017: 49). In January 2016, it relaunched a tougher asylum
strategy, which symbolised its push factor. The border control mission
with countries on the Balkan route was organised. Then Germany started
to tighten border controls with people sent back to Austria, reaching up to
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
200 per day. This about-turn in Germany had a dramatic impact for Austria
by sparking fears that a great number of migrants aiming for Germany
and Sweden would become stuck in its territory (Hettyey, 2017: 92).
Simultaneously, at the start of 2016 Austria and Germany declared that only
those migrants seeking asylum in Austria and Germany would be allowed
entry (Šelo Šabić and Borić, 2016: 4). This all shows how changes within
the system affected Austria’s border policies, according to migration system
Austria reinstated border controls from 16 September 2015 to 16 March
2016, justifying the policy with the massive migration flows to and through
the country. Austria’s notification of border control reintroduction was
based on the German one, without any specific references to public order
and international security (EMN Annual Report, 2016). It mostly based its
claims on border controls benefitting Austrian citizens. In September 2015,
the main reason was the reintroduction of border controls by Germany,
continuous overburdening of the police, emergency services, as well as
public infrastructure. In its notification from October 2015, Austria warned
about security deficits in the Schengen Area, which was addressed again in
March 2016, proclaiming serious flaws in the external border control with
Greece (ibid.). Austria clearly claimed that its willingness to help should
not be overstretched and that it was not responsible for the vast majority of
persons concerned. At the same time, it pled for common actions and for
controlling the influx of people in an orderly manner. Measures taken at
the border were interpreted as the only way to avoid security deficits in the
Schengen Area in the interest of all citizens. Austria’s claim that “border con-
trols within the Schengen area are of benefit for EU citizens presents inver-
sion of the obligation in Article 26 SBC to assess the impact of the controls
on free movement of persons” (European Parliament, 2016: 43). According
to the theory of policy convergence, this shows the lack of harmonisation
with the existing EU regulation.
Austria hosted the Western Balkans conference in February 2016 where
it took the lead in advancing the shut-down, although it was criticised by
Brussels, Berlin and Athens. Within a 4-month period, “the Austrian govern-
ment shifted from a Merkel-like course to an Orban-like course” (Gruber,
2017: 50). Here, aside from the previous strategy of alignment with a much
more powerful neighbour, the strategy of a network leader was on display.
In April 2016, the Austrian parliament adopted “one of Europe’s tough-
est asylum laws allowing the government to declare a state of emergency”
if numbers suddenly rise, and to reject most asylum-seekers at the border
(Hettyey, 2017: 92). “Refugees were not welcome any more – only at limited
number, for a limited period, at a limited cost and under the premise of
unequivocal integration” (Gruber, 2017: 51). By demonstrating individual
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
measures, this small state condemned the EU’s functioning (Hettvey, 2017:
96–7) and challenged the Schengen Agreement.
Denmark’s civic selection approach
In 2015, an increasing number of migrants and asylum-seekers reached
Northern Europe, crossing the borders of Denmark and Sweden. These
migrants caused administrative challenges and political debates on national
security, cultural differences and integration. They were perceived as a bur-
den triggering a state of emergency. Both governments reacted with policy
regulation focused on limiting the numbers of new entries. The decision by
the Swedish Government in November 2015 to implement border controls
influenced both Swedish and Danish asylum and migration policies. The
move was supposed to increase the number of asylum-seekers in Denmark
(Jayananthan and Kryger Pedersen, 2018).
EU countries in the north have sought to use the Dublin system at the
expense of the southern states. However, this has been obstructed by the
failures of asylum systems in the south (Open Society Foundation, 2018).
The two countries represent two different approaches to immigration and
two different ideas of national identity. The Swedish one is exceptional, yet
faced with “the civic turn”, while the Danish one goes hand in hand with the
civic selection approach (Bech et al., 2017: 20). The overall situation with
migrants is described as the “refugee chaos in Denmark” and as the “refugee
crisis in Sweden” (Jayananthan and Kryger Pedersen, 2018: 3). Their policies
clearly show the dynamic of chaining elements within the migration system
whereby the moves of one actor influence the moves of others, regardless
of common EU policies. Thousands of migrants crossed the Danish border
and wandered around on their way to Norway and Sweden (ibid.: 2). The
Danish Government described Europe as being paralysed after an unprec-
edented number of people had crossed its external borders and continued
northwards. They took responsibility by introducing stricter measures in
the asylum field as well as by introducing border controls. These meas-
ures served as push factors. As mentioned, Denmark applies the Schengen
acquis but as part of international, not Union, law.
In 2015, Denmark was faced with 20,825 first-time asylum applicants
(11th in the EU) and 6,055 in 2016 (12th place). It held a 1.7% share of the
total number of applications at the EU level in 2015. Denmark occupied 8th
place in 2015 and 14th in 2016, when it came to the number of asylum appli-
cants per 1 million inhabitants (Eurostat, 2016). In the spring of 2016, 62%
of Danes supported the common European policy on migrations, while
only 30% supported the immigration of people from outside the EU (EMN
Annual Report, 2016).
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
Danish politicians were generally focused on the situation in Denmark,
their internal cohesion and the stress that newcomers may add to Danish
society in terms of labour (Shierup and Ålund, 2011; Bech et al., 2017). Their
policies claimed to emphasise welfare over humanitarianism. Denmark had
the goal of reducing the number of asylum-seekers and making the coun-
try less attractive to new arrivals, which shows push factors being used to
strengthen Denmark’s position mostly as a transit country. The civic selec-
tion as an approach to immigration means that only people who “fit the
Danish egalitarian way of life and those who seem to have potential to
be able to contribute to Danish society should be allowed in” (Bech et al.,
2017: 20). The Danish government constructed a narrative centred around
Denmark and Danes that communicates a feeling of unity and bond based
on national identity. Danish policy documents indicate that the security and
cohesion of Danish society take priority over accepting people seeking ref-
uge or cooperation with other EU states to find a common solution to the
crisis. Government solutions took the form of alterations to the Danish asy-
lum and migration policies aimed at maintaining control of new entries and
preventing a high influx of newcomers (Jayanathan and Kyger Pedersen,
2018: 47–48). This was done “to send out signals that people should think
twice before choosing Denmark as a destination country” (Oloo, 2018: 47).
The Danish Liberal minority government has introduced several policy
changes since September 2015. A new and lower integration benefit replaced
social assistance for those who have not been in Denmark for more than
seven or eight years. Then in November, the Government came up with a
34-proposal asylum package, one-third of which was adopted. Among other
things, it allows for the easier return of rejected asylum-seekers (Kvist, 2016).
In January 2016, the parliamentary majority adopted the second part of the
asylum package encompassing rules on the confiscation of valuables, family
reunification and shorter residence permits. These new rules attracted a lot
of international criticism (ibid.). The tightening of the asylum and migration
rules may be considered a way of a small state safeguarding itself against
potential threats that could occur or are seen occurring in other countries.
The Danish Prime Minister stated that “Denmark should not undergo the
same uncontrollable pressure that has brought Germany to its knees and
made the Swedish government desperately appeal for international help”
(Jayananthan and Kyger Pedersen, 2018: 62).
During the 2015 migration crisis, Denmark imitated Hungary by allowing
migrants to head north unchecked and freely through its territory towards
Sweden (Alkopher and Blanc, 2017). This move damaged the relations of
trust between Sweden and Denmark and is best explained by the migration
system theory. After Sweden implemented border controls, Denmark fol-
lowed the pattern by establishing strict policies to discourage the entry of
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
refugees into the country. Several different measures were implemented,
from spot checks of passport identification, blocking the country’s major
highways with Germany, to parliament passing several policies strengthen-
ing its existing laws on border control (European Parliament, 2016). With
the measures adopted in January 2016, Denmark became the last Nordic
country to “tighten entry access” and extended the controls on its border
with Germany twice (Kvist, 2016). Denmark introduced border measures
from 1 April to 12 November 2016, with a short interruption between 2
and 20 June. Its border strategy is determined by its role as both a transit
and a destination country. “Denmark’s public security threat appears to be
that people might not move on as quickly as the Danish authorities would
like because its neighbours have imposed carrier sanctions requiring travel
companies to check ID documents” (European Parliament, 2016). Nordic
countries have revealed their specificities regarding the public security
threat, without providing evidence to meet the simple criterion of Article 26
SBC (ibid.).
Thielemann (2003: 11) claims the Danish government did not allow
policy harmonisation to deter its ability to apply distinct national policies.
Demark is perceived as the European country that implemented the “most
civic integration policies” and adopted some of the most strict, complex and
demanding migration policies (Borevi, 2014: 716). It suspended the Dublin
Regulation for certain refugees, effectively helping to reduce their number.
Sweden and the civic turn
According to Eurostat 2016 data, Sweden was the largest European refu-
gee recipient state per capita in 2015. Its attractiveness as a destination coun-
try, apart from a liberal migration policy, was due to its generous refugee
support system (Herolf, 2016: 39). It has been one of the European countries
to have openly welcomed refugees. In 1997, a new integration policy was
agreed in Riksdag based on the government bill “Sweden, the future and
diversity – from immigration politics to integration politics” (Brljavac, 2017:
96). The Swedish integration model displayed equal rights, obligations and
opportunities for all, regardless of their ethnic, religious or cultural back-
ground. Sweden has also viewed migrants as “a valuable economic asset
that can contribute to its economic progress” (ibid.: 98). It introduced meas-
ures to improve education system attainment, increase healthcare capacity
as well as new integration plans and strategies in view of supporting the
civic participation of third-country nationals, “fast tracks for newly arrived
refugees to find jobs in shortage occupations as well as adopted legislation
pertaining to anti-discrimination” (European Parliament, 2016: 52–56).
The war in Syria means immigration to Sweden has grown, with the result
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
confirming Sweden as a destination country. However, on a smaller scale, it
also represents a transit country to Norway and Finland (Herolf, 2016: 41).
In 2015, Sweden counted 156,110 first-time asylum applicants, taking third
place in the European Union. Its share of total EU applicants was 12.4%.
During the same year, Sweden was the 2nd EU state in terms of the number
of asylum applicants per 1 million inhabitants (out of all asylum applications
in 2016, 60% were granted (Eurostat, 2016)). Yet, the vast inflow of people
placed Swedish society under serious stress, with problems related to their
reception at railway stations, identity checks, the protection of accommo-
dation centres, the lack of identification papers etc. Moreover, the costs of
receiving asylum-seekers were enormous (Herolf, 2016: 47–50).
According to the Eurobarometer survey from May 2016, 60% of Swedes
agreed their country should help refugees, while the second-highest score
in the EU was registered in Denmark with 39% (Standard Eurobarometer 85,
2016). However, during 2016, there was quite a lively discussion in Sweden
on cultural differences (Herolf, 2016: 2). Swedish newspapers and policy
documents emphasised the importance of cooperation and solidarity within
the EU in order to solve the crisis (Parusel, 2016: 11–12). Other EU mem-
ber states were criticised, particularly Denmark with its asylum policy being
described as “Danish deterrence” (Jayananthan and Kyger Pedersen, 2018:
64). Immigration from outside the EU was supported by 62% of Swedes,
while 75% were in favour of the common European policy on migration.
Several authors have identified a shift in Swedish political rhetoric and
policies on asylum and migration (Shierup et al., 2014; Dahlgren, 2016; Bech
et al., 2017). On 8 September 2015, the Swedish Government presented a
policy for reforming the EU refugee system that, among other things, envis-
aged establishing permanent redistribution mechanisms in the event of
disasters, taking responsibility to maintain the EU’s external borders and
asylum rules, increasing the quota for refugees and more active foreign aid
policy to help people on the ground (Herolf, 2016: 53–54). On the regional
level, Nordic foreign ministers filed a complaint in September 2016 with the
European Commission concerning Hungary and its refusal to accept asy-
lum-seekers from other EU countries. This was in violation of the Dublin
Regulation and ended with 1,000 refugees that Sweden wanted to send
back to Hungary in 2016 (ibid.: 55).
The Social Democrat and Green coalition government made an agree-
ment on migration and integration with the Moderate Party, the Christian
Democrats, the Liberal Party, and the Centre Party in October 2015. Part of
the agreement referred to the relocation of migrants, calling for all countries
to take responsibility and help those fleeing. “It is important for European
solidarity that all countries participate and through this system all countries
will build up a reception system and improve their asylum processes” (Sager
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
and Öberg, 2017: 2). Germany and Sweden criticised other EU members’
unwillingness to share the burden of the migrant challenge. The criticism
was mainly directed at certain Central and Eastern European governments
for their selfish approach to the EU migrant crisis (Brljavac, 2017: 97).
Sweden introduced border controls from 12 November 2015 to 9 January
2016, from 10 January to 8 April 2016, from 9 April to 8 May 2016, and from
9 May to 7 June 2016. A reason given for reintroducing border measures
was the “extreme challenges to the functionality of the Swedish society, one
of the three goals of Swedish security”, with a need to identify different cate-
gories of persons entering the country at the borders (European Parliament,
2016). By introducing identity checks for all travellers crossing the Oresund
Bridge, Sweden revealed itself as a small member state unilaterally engaging
in self-protection by threatening to suspend its obligations within the sys-
tem (Alkopher and Blanc, 2017). Its claims were not in harmony with Article
26 of the SBC.
After the Swedish Government implemented temporary border controls
for all public transportation to Sweden and aligned its asylum policies with
the minimum levels required by EU legislation, it reached a turning point
and took a step towards an anti-immigration policy (Dahlgren, 2016: 385–
386). On 21 June 2016, the Riksdag adopted a set of laws which changed
the rules for asylum-seekers and entered into force on 20 July 2016, with its
application intended to last for 3 years. With the vast number of migrants
arriving, it was quite impossible to determine whether they were coming to
seek asylum, continue their journey on to Finland or Norway or disappear
(Herolf, 2016: 42). The Swedish model of exceptionalism (protection and
equality of all citizens and new immigrants) was challenged by a civic turn
(Shierup and Ålund, 2011; Borevi, 2014; Bech et al., 2017). The new approach
“makes rights a reward that people receive after fulfilling their goals” (ibid.).
In other words, the newcomers must earn their rights.
The recent Swedish policies follow trends in other small EU member
states regarding their handling of new arrivals and prioritising the eco-
nomic situation over moral values (Dahlgren, 2016: 386). This shift may be
explained by migration system theory where changes in one part of the
system reflect changes in other parts. Sweden as a small state with limited
resources was unwilling to take on the burden of the entire system by itself
and was reacting to the policies of other EU states, particularly Denmark.
During the European migration crisis which culminated in huge inflows
in 2015 and 2016, several small EU states were either entry points (e.g.
Malta), transit (Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Denmark) or final destinations for
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
migrants (Denmark, Austria, Sweden). Excluding the origin countries from
the analysis, the article discussed the changing migration trends and fig-
ures in small states affected by the crisis, resulting in new border policies.
According to Collett and Le Coz (2018, 6), the EU’s response to the migra-
tion crisis may be perceived based on two models: acting as a lead-agency
or as a network. The analysis mostly focused on the latter one, referring to
“a more complex interaction of different national and EU actors with a less
defined chain of command”. The aim was to show how small states acted
as elements within a system impacted by crisis. By using two theoretical
frameworks, migration system theory and the theory of policy convergence,
the author questioned (1) different border policies in relation to the sys-
tem, (2) their convergence with the Schengen Agreement, as well as (3) the
difference between transit and destination small states, by identifying push
and pull factors. Further, (4) the small states’ foreign policy strategies were
addressed (particularly the integration dilemma between more autonomy
vs. the institutional solution).
(1) At the start of the crisis in 2015, a higher level of activity in support of
collective action was displayed, promoted by the Commission, the Council
and some states such as Sweden and Germany, which accepted an agenda
based on cooperation and humanism (Rasten et al., 2015: 25). Other states
deepened the political fault lines in the EU with their reactions. Despite
attempts by EU institutions to promote a common solution through the
relocation mechanism, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria introduced border
controls. Soon Germany and Sweden, the most prominent supporters of
the collective EU action, did the same (Rasten et al., 2015: 25). This shows
how elements within the system are linked, with an unparalleled flood of
migrants causing a domino effect in the form of individual solutions. Croatia
as a small state representing part of the external EU border was initially
allowing migrants to proceed onwards into Western Europe. However,
when Hungary decided to close its border and make changes within the sys-
tem, Croatia followed the pattern. It closed seven out of eight border cross-
ings with Serbia (Gyori, 2016: 42). The same goes for Slovenia, which intro-
duced border controls after its neighbours had done the same (especially
after Austria reintroduced border controls with Hungary, and after Hungary
closed its borders with Serbia). Austria’s initial welcoming approach turned
into a closed border approach after the migrant route was shifted from
Hungary to Croatia and Slovenia. Two different approaches to migrations
were on display in Denmark and Sweden, clearly showing the dynamic
of changing elements within the system. Denmark came up with the most
strict and complex migration policies, while faced with unparalleled inflows
Sweden decided to introduce several restrictive policy changes, criticising
the lack of solidarity and responsibility shown by other member states. The
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
analysis reveals the importance of timing and the action-reaction pattern of
small states when creating different border policies.
(2) The analysed small states’ policies were partly out of step with the
existing EU regulations due to the heavy burden placed on them and the
lack of resources and capacity to accommodate the applicants and meet
all their requirements. The crisis has led to “the de facto dismantling of
Schengen visa-free travel in parts of the EU, fencing and policing the bor-
ders” (Inter-Agency Regional Analysts Network, 2016: 21). However, there
was a distinct shortage of details concerning the reasons for reintroducing
border controls given by every single state used as a case study in this paper.
As Schengen Border Code provides: “Migration and the crossing of external
borders by a large number of third-country nationals should not, per se, be
considered to be a threat to public policy or internal security” (ibid.) The
Schengen Border Code does not completely prohibit controls but provides
for their temporary reintroduction. A state can reintroduce border control
on an exceptional basis without prior consultation but needs to justify the
measure. Many consider that an influx of migrants does not fall within the
exceptions defined in Article 26 of the SBC (Kiefer, 2015: 27).
(3) According to Bakewell (2014), the way the element operates in the
system relates to its location within the system. In the case of the small EU
member states analysed in the paper, a significant difference in implement-
ing border policies was noticed depending on whether they were transit or
destination states, and on the region they belong to. Particular push and pull
factors were addressed as positive or negative factors influencing migra-
tion. Segaran and Yahya (2018: 139) believe push factors are manifested
through strict immigration and border policies, which can push migrants
away. On the other hand, people are attracted to a certain location by pull
factors like peace and safety, greater job opportunities, better education or
a better standard of living in general (ibid.). The analysed small states were
placed in the categories of transit (Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and to some
extent Denmark) and destination states (Austria, Denmark, Sweden) after
taking account of the number of first asylum applications, as well as differ-
ent push and pull factors.
(4) The Schengen area is perceived as “one of the most ambitious reali-
zations of the EU. It suppressed internal border control and created tools
to maintain security through law enforcement cooperation” (Kiefer, 2015:
26). However, after 20 years of harmonising and developing the Common
European Asylum System (CEAS) and the emerging European norms and
regulations on immigration controls, the migrant management crisis hap-
pened. It created tensions between national and supranational interests and
control over the European agenda (Brekke and Staver, 2018: 2164). Certain
small member states’ deliberate “non-use” of Europe “has been an equally
TEORIJA IN PRAKSA let. 56, 2/2019
important strategy to reduce migratory pressure and maximize national lee-
way” (Slominski, and Trauner, 2018: 101). The escalation of the migration
crisis reveals the lack of coordination and cooperation between EU mem-
ber states, as well as tensions between national and supranational interests
and control over the European agenda (Brekke and Staver, 2018: 2164). The
crisis of universalism was clearly shown with the Leviathan of national sov-
ereignty emerging through the unilateral response by small member states.
According to migration system theory, any change within the migration sys-
tem influences how small EU states design their border policies as interact-
ing elements. The lack of a uniform solution visible in the reform of the
Common European Asylum System (CEAS) remaining half completed, the
Dublin Regulation needing further changes and with the lack of responsi-
bility-sharing, led, according to Lehne (2016), to individualised small state
All of the analysed small states’ reactions to the migrant crisis have put
pressure on the Schengen Agreement by showing their border policies
lack convergence with EU immigration policies and cooperation. Croatia
announced it would maintain strict daily quotas of migrants crossing,
migrants passed on to other states, and improperly registered them. Slovenia
erected a razor-wire fence on the border with Croatia, deployed the army to
assist the police at the border and applied daily quotas. Aside from building
a fence along its border with Slovenia, Austria reinstated border controls, set
a daily quota of asylum-seekers and allowed migrants to travel unimpeded
from Hungary to Germany. Denmark reintroduced border controls and sus-
pended all rail and ferry links with Germany, allowing migrants wishing to
continue on to other Nordic states to pass. Sweden followed the same pat-
tern and implemented a mandatory train exchange for travellers between
Copenhagen and Sweden. The author contends that the different positions
held by the analysed small states within the EU and the Schengen system,
the changes to the system triggered by migration as well as external influ-
ences which defined them as migrant destination or transition countries
impacted their border policies during the crisis.
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... Due to the low level of migration in the past, the short tradition of migration policy in Croatia has never been tested in practice before (Luša, 2019), and it was further challenged by the country's lack of preparation. In addition to the short national tradition of migration policy, no contingency plan was introduced, so that an ad hoc crisis management was implemented (Car, 13 However, while there were many individual refusals of entry at the Slovenian border, it is worth mentioning the case of migrants who were forced to stay in two Bosnian villages (Bihać and Velika Kladuša) outside the Croatian border. ...
... Croatia, for example, reported that it was particularly concerned about the issue of reception, as it did not meet the requirements for fingerprints under the Eurodac Regulation obligations. Such a gap meant that parts of the migration flow were not registered and not documented, which in some cases led to the non-application of the Dublin Regulation ( border crossings with Serbia (Luša, 2019). This measure exacerbated already existing regional tensions, and Serbia responded by closing its border to Croatian imports. ...
... Apart from the lack of logistical capacity, neither country wanted to be a "pocket country". Similar conflicts occurred on various occasions in the region, jeopardizing interstate relations in the still turbulent Balkan region (Luša 2019). ...
... Consequently, it ranks low (two out of five points) in the next question on crisis exercises, as exercises are only conducted within the existing crisis management plans of the NPRD. One of the reasons for this is also the fact that Croatia is still a beginner in migration (Luša 2019). The last question reached full points, as the national level experienced a crisis. ...
... Due to the low level of migration in the past, the short tradition of migration policy in Croatia has never been tested in practice before (Luša 2019), and it was further challenged by the country's lack of preparation. In addition to the short national tradition of migration policy, no contingency plan was introduced, so that an ad hoc crisis management was implemented. ...
... During the six-month period, Slovenia received about half a million mixed migrant flows, most of them on their transit route to the northern part of the EU. Only about 500 refugees applied for international protection during this period (Eurostat 2016), and most of them applied for it because of the risk that they would not be able to reach the northern countries due to increased controls along Slovenian-Austrian and at the Austrian-German border (Luša 2019). ...
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The migration crisis was and, in some aspects, still is one of the biggest challenges that the European Union (EU) has faced recently. In the crisis peak in 2015/16, most of its member states were affected in different ways. This paper contributes to the ex-post dialog of this transboundary crisis and attempts to present the level of readiness to solve wicked problems and manage a transboundary crisis, looking at the perspective of two countries—Slovenia and Croatia. The paper focuses on the following areas of migration governance: (1) border management, (2) reception policies, (3) migrant protection regimes, and (4) national security, which represented the main issues for transit countries and are embedded in the capacity assessing tool Survey Tool used in the paper. With its set of questions and using a multiple case studies methodology and comparative analysis, the paper’s results show the rather immature level of mass migration capacities at both transit levels studied. In the absence of migration crisis studies, the proposed paper retains its originality and adds value, especially in multi-level systems, in assessing the complexity of the crisis from a national perspective and providing the numerical assessment of crisis management capacity.
... Small states are said to share a number of identifiable features, including their high degree of economic openness, their insularity or 'enclaveness', their resilience, weakness and dependence (Sutton & Payne, 1993). Paradoxically, small states are often portrayed as vulnerable yet adept to risk governance, for example in terms of transboundary water management (Koff & Maganda, 2015;Koff et al., 2020;Lusa, 2019). While the constructivist perspective recognises small states' commitment to international norms (Siitonen, 2017;Graham & Graham, 2019;Nadalutti, 2020), neo-functionalists regard them as global actors, motivated by incentives for trade optimization (Schiff, 2014). ...
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This article explores some of the challenges facing artists and curators living and working in a small state. More specifically, it addresses the tension between 'openness' in cultural policies, through artist mobility and arts funds; and 'closure', in terms of limitations in issues related to peripherality, identity and the application of the arm's length approach in cultural policies. Discussion centres around cultural commonalities in small states and their implications on the formulation of cultural policies in a system of networked communities contextualised in a nuanced socio-political climate. Recommendations are offered on less structured and more fluid, actor-oriented cultural policies, referred to as 'accomplishing' cultural policies in small states, as an incessant adaptation addressing proactively cultural change while still recognising cultural continuities of small states. This article draws examples from the small state of Malta, to explore the applicability of these cultural continuities.
... In response, other observers, such as Katzenstein (1985Katzenstein ( , 2003 and Cooper and Shaw (2009) highlighted distinct approaches to policy-making which promoted innovation and prosperity amongst small states. Small states are portrayed as both vulnerable and adept at risk governance (see Koff and Maganda 2015;Koff et al. 2020;Lusa 2019). Another seeming paradox is the recognized commitment of small states to international norms in constructivist perspectives (see Siitonen 2017;Graham and Graham 2019;Nadalutti 2020) whereas neo-functionalist views describe small states as global actors driven by economic logic and incentives for trade optimization (see Schiff 2014). ...
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This article examines the integration of migrants in Luxembourg within the framework of small state theory. Within the comparative scholarship on migration, small states are often presented as “success stories.” This research questions this assumption and empirical data presented here indicates that many contradictions exist within Luxembourg’s migrant integration model. The country’s “success” in fact does not reflect the levels of integration of migrants nationally as significant inequalities are present in Luxembourg. However, the analysis of Luxembourg presented here illustrates how small states have coherently embraced many paradoxes that are inherent to integration strategies throughout Europe with the goal of promoting peaceful coexistence.
Three main challenges detected at the EU level during the migration crisis are analysed in the chapter by using different case studies of small bordering EU member states: the question of sovereignty, the lack of clear EU policy and a division which emerged between the most affected states and other member states on taking the heaviest burden of crisis. In order to understand migration trends and challenges faced by the bordering EU states, the meaning of borders is particularly explained and all affected bordering states detected and categorised. As one of the small states’ foreign policy strategies, sheltering, is analysed on the example of four small bordering EU states (Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia) during the migration crisis. Several levels of analysis brought forth conclusions regarding the three issues defined at the EU level, regarding each analysed small bordering state, as well as regarding the sheltering strategy layers discussed within the framework of the migration crisis.
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As a member of the European Union during the European migrant crisis in 2015, the Republic of Slovenia found itself in a crisis situation as a small transit country through which many thousands of migrants travelled. Although it had already had experience with migration as a result of the wars in the Balkans, in 2015 it was extreme. The nation integrated all its capabilities, including the armed forces, with the support of other member states. As Slovenia is one of the first countries of entry into the Schengen area, there is a growing trend in the country for various forms of migration, including economic and illegal, as well as refugees looking to Slovenia for asylum. Increasing migration for a small country poses a major security challenge. This article focuses on a small country as a member state of the European Union, which urgently needs change and a broader political and security framework to cope with increasing migration demands. It needs more input from the European Union in the future. Keywords European Union, Migration, European Migrant Crisis, Small States, Republic of Slovenia, Slovenian Armed Forces, Illegal Migrations, Asylum
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In recent times, the government has promoted Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program to attract foreigners of all background to choose Malaysia as their second home. The present study is intended to analyze the expatriate preferences to participate in MM2H. The objectives were to examine and find the relationship between push and pull factors associated with the intention of selecting Malaysia as the second home destination. The study also proposed to examine the moderating effect of the relationship between the independent variables and the dependent variable of interest. The proposed push factors that motivate them to leave their home country include high cost of living, social problems, ecological problems, health hazards, natural disasters and poor safety and security. On the contrary, the proposed pull factors that make Malaysia a suitable second home option include economic environment, tourist attractions, social and cultural environment, safety and security, political stability and relaxing retirement life. These push and pull factors were identified from a comprehensive literature review and expert opinions and the push and pull factors were conceptualized and a business research model was proposed. Suitable propositions were developed to test the cause and effect relationship between the push and pull factors on the intentions to consider Malaysia as a second home destination. Additionally, laws and regulations may serve as a proposed moderating variable for this investigation of the relationship between the push and pull factors on the intentions to consider Malaysia as a second home.
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This article analyzes how Member States have used the opportunities and avoided the constraints of the EU's multilevel governance architecture to return unwanted migrants. Drawing on sociological approaches to the EU and a broad understanding of return policies, we investigate the ways in which the northern Member States, notably Germany and Austria, have increasingly relied upon the EU's operational and financial resources to achieve their goal of pursuing a bold return policy. A key ‘usage’ of Europe has been the pooling of political and financial power to externalize and informalize its return policy. At the same time, the northern Member States' deliberate – yet widely under-researched – ‘non-use’ of Europe, such as using and maximizing national leeway, has been an equally important strategy to reduce migratory pressure and achieve higher return rates.
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Family migration policy, once basing citizens and resident foreigners’ possibilities to bring in foreign family members mainly on the right to family life, is increasingly a tool states use to limit immigration and to push newcomers to integrate into civic and economic life. The family migration policies of Denmark, Norway and Sweden range widely – from more minimal support and age requirements to high expectations of language skills, work records and even income levels. While in Denmark and increasingly in Norway growing sets of requirements have been justified on the need to protect the welfare state and a Nordic liberal way of life, in Sweden more minimal requirements have been introduced in the name of spurring immigrants’ labor market integration even as rights-based reasoning has continued to dominate. In all three countries, new restrictions have been introduced in the wake of the refugee crisis. These cases show how prioritizations of the right to family life vis-à-vis welfare-state sustainability have produced different rules for family entry, and how family migration policies are used to different extents to push civic integration of both new and already settled immigrants.
The article problematises the European migration crisis that culminated in Croatia becoming a transit country on the Western Balkans route in the spring and summer of 2015. It focuses on analysing migrations from the perspective of political discourse, giving the increasingly frequent use of economic, security and cultural-identity stereotypes in countries affected by the crisis. The student population of the University of Zagreb was chosen due to it being familiar with the issue through different channels, in some cases even as part of the curriculum. The research was conducted in two phases (in 2016 and 2017). The first phase in 2016 focused on deconstructing the dominant political discourse presented by the government and opposition on the most popular news portals among the selected audience, which was then used to explain the formation of the students' opinions on three forms of stereotypes related to migrants: economic, security and culturalidentity. In the second phase in 2017, the authors sought to detect whether the migrant issue was securitised by the students and which elements of securitisation they attributed to the crisis.
Securing collective action in the field of asylum regulation is high on the European political agenda. In this article, we look at one country's partial pullback from the regional cooperation during the high influx of asylum seekers in 2015. We use Norway as a case to analyse the challenges to common European asylum regulations and the drivers of a region-wide tendency of what we call renationalisation. Against this background, we seek to contribute to the discussion on the dynamics of Europeanisation and the future of the Common European Asylum System. While the Europeanisation of migration policies has been well covered in the literature, tendencies of renationalisation have been less so. To contribute to the knowledge base, we create a typology of the drivers of renationalisation. These drivers include necessary political and institutional preconditions, resource limitations, triggers, expectations and aspects of time.
The aim of the article is to analyze the securitization discourse that emerged in Slovenian TV news during the so-called refugee crisis in 2015. The article first describes the specificities of the migrant situation in Slovenia and provides a legal and policy frame. The article then focuses on theoretical premises by introducing notions of securitization and discourse. This is followed by an analysis of Slovenian TV news. The analysis shows how the rhetorics of exceptionality, criminalization, security, and militarization are constituents for what the article defines as securitization discourse. The author concludes with a reflection on securitization and governmentality.
In traditional political thought, as reflected by Henri Rousseau or Charles de Montesquieu, the qualification of a state as „small“ in the context of foreign and security policy meant that such a state was perceived as no danger to neighboring states. Small states were seen as fragile creatures in the rough sea of international relations. They were internally well suited for democratic regimes but externally helpless and constantly threatened by extinction.1 This view of small states was partly a myth based on political romanticism and idealization of the small size of nations,2 partly explainable by the nature of the existing international system3 which was far less governed by the rule of law than it is today. With democracy well established in large states as well and the principle of sovereign equality of states generally accepted and anchored in the Charter of the UN, what significance does the concept of the small state retain? Does it still have any significance at all?
In recent years, a number of European countries abolished national border controls in favor of Europe’s external frontiers. In doing so, they challenged long-established conceptions of sovereignty, territoriality, and security in world affairs. Setting forth a new analytic framework informed by constructivism and pragmatism, Ruben Zaiotti traces the transformation of underlying assumptions and cultural practices guiding European policymakers and postnational Europe, shedding light on current trends characterizing its politics and relations with others. The book also includes a fascinating comparison to developments in North America, where the United States has pursued more restrictive border control strategies since 9/11. As a broad survey of the origins, evolution, and implications of this remarkable development in European integration, Cultures of Border Control will be of interest to students and scholars of international relations and political geography.