Working Paper No. 1265

The Refugee Crisis and the Reinvigoration of the Nation State: Does the European Union Have a Common Asylum Policy?

Published: February 26, 2019, revised May 2019 and August 2019Pages: 28Keywords: Asylum policy; Asylum seekers; European Union; Migration policy; Refugee crisis; Schengen AgreementJEL-codes: F22; F53; H37; J61; K37

The Refugee Crisis and the Reinvigoration of the Nation State: Does the European Union Have a Common Asylum Policy? Magnus Henrekson, Özge Öner and Tino Sanandaji


The European Union officially proclaims to have a common asylum policy. However, the common treaties leave a great deal of discretion to the individual member countries, which allow them to regulate refugee migration while still upholding international treaties. Member countries have authority over border controls, the processing of asylum applications as well as economic benefits provided to refugees.

We show that the differences in refugee flows are so extensive and systematic that the existence of a common EU asylum policy is debatable. The commitments made by the member countries are largely voluntary, and asylum policy is mainly determined at the national level. The discrepancies between the member countries strongly signal that the European Union may not be an optimal region for a common asylum policy.

An asylum policy should instead be determined at the national level concordant with the regional and local level, where integration measures are implemented in practice. Meanwhile, the European Union can play an important role through refugee aid to afflicted countries, treaties with third countries, rescue actions in the Mediterranean and control of the external EU borders.

Magnus Henrekson

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Ph: +46 (0)8 665 4502
magnus.henrekson@ifn.se

Özge Öner

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Ph: +46 8 665 4519
oo263@cam.ac.uk

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union in a Changing World Order

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This book explores how the European Union responds to the ongoing challenges to the liberal international order. These challenges arise both within the EU itself and beyond its borders, and put into question the values of free trade and liberal democracy. 

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