On 17 June 2019, the Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute in Florence hosted an expert meeting on the state of knowledge on EU migration governance. The focus was on two key areas: asylum and border controls (and the Schengen area), and the external dimension of the EU migration governance. Key questions guided the discussions: What has accumulated knowledge on these topics told us so far? What are the points of agreement and disagreements? What are the key gaps and what is needed to enhance the knowledge base? How can this knowledge inform policy? The latter question guided discussions around current EU debates on the future of migration governance.
To provide the necessary background information, professor Andrew Geddes presented CrossMigration’s objectives as well as the research hub – its taxonomy and structure – which aims at getting knowledge and experts on migration under ‘one roof’.
Then, the group of 12 experts – professors, researchers and scholars – from different academic institutions and an international organization – provided valuable inputs on the state of knowledge report that we had developed. We also discussed how to make better use of the existing knowledge in addressing key questions about the future of the EU migration governance in the fields of asylum, border controls and Schengen, and its external dimension.
Past policy for present problems
In both areas of migration governance, the so-called migration crisis of 2015 certainly refocused attention on issues of asylum and external dimension, gathered more resources and brought new actors to the migration governance field. It has also reinforced certain modes of governance (i.e., informalization, externalization). However, research suggests that there has not been a turning point or shift in the EU approach to asylum and irregular migration, but rather the continued influence of policy choices made in the early 1990's. Policy legacies shape current responses, which means that the ‘shadow of the past’ is likely to shape responses in the future.
Among the main takeaways of the meeting, there is consensus that there is a comprehensive accumulated knowledge base on the development and evolution of the common European asylum system, the Schengen area and border controls. Hence, a key gap is not the lack of research and evidence, but rather there is a need for a better understanding of how existing knowledge relates to ‘real world’ decision-making. In both areas, bridging research and policy-making is crucial. In that perspective, the research hub is a great tool to facilitate a better linking between the two.