[February, 2016]

Currently we are seeing four major dynamics related to re-stabilisation emerge, which the research project is following in situ and in actu:


  1. The political process within the EU has highlighted strong regional and political fragmentations which seem to compete with each other exceedingly. Next to tendencies of re-nationalisation and national solo actions, regional coalitions have been shaped – like the Visegrád group, who reject the reallocation of refugees within the EU – as well as work alliances like that of the states along the Balkan Route, which only partly cohere with the space of the EU or the Schengen zone. Greece seems largely isolated, while the EU candidate country Macedonia is given a central role in coping with the crisis of governing migration, which implies several versions of a new EU. Ever more often, there are spread ideas of a core-Schengen (“Kern-Schengen” – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2015). We need to ask in which ways these processes of fragmentation inscribe themselves into the re-constitution of the EU and what kind of new EU will emerge from this.
  2. After the failure of the strained efforts to externalise the border regime, which had come to be a central pillar of EU migration control policies since the Global Approach of 2005 (Blair-Schily plan 2004, cooperation with Libya 2011), now there can be observed a renewed strained externalisation of border control policies as well as migration control policies. This may especially be seen in the central role which Turkey has been ascribed anew by the EU, as a buffer state and as a containment zone, and which the EU promotes with far-reaching concessions. It is striking that this externalisation is no longer accompanied by the promise of a formal improvement of, e.g., protection for refugees, as has been the case of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Macedonia, too, has got a similar role as a “second line of defense” (Hungarian premier Orbán 15/02/2016). Which implications does this have for the enlargement politics and the pursued politics of integration of the EU?
  3. The initiatives to overcome the crisis triggered by the refugees increasingly aim at shifting the balance between the EU member states and the EU institutions. Especially the strained curtailment of state sovereignty and the transfer of rights to Brussels are discussed, which could be conceived as a re-Europeanization. In this context, we can hint at the deluge of infringement proceedings initiated by the Commission in the sectors of migration law and asylum law; the hotspot approach of the Commission, which declares certain sections of the external frontier the field of interventions of European institutions (Frontex, EASO, Europol, Eurojust); and the establishment of the “European Border and Coast Guard” especially pursued by Dutch EU Council Presidency – which goes along with introducing a “shared responsibility” for protection of the frontier.
  4. The technical/digital solutions (e.g., VIS, Entry/Exit, or EUROSUR) hitherto favoured by the Commission and the Council are strikingly absent in the initiatives to regain control over the frontiers. These technical/digital approaches could until now be understood as a structure compromising between the facilitation of free circulation in line with the globalised flow of commodities and people on the one hand and the aspiration to control inherent to the border on the other hand. Which new shape will he border get, and which new relationship between economic demands for circulation and national/European aspirations of control?


All in all, these four dynamics hint at enormous shifts of and new regional constellations of power as well as redrafts of the EU and the Schengen system. Whether these can eventually be implemented and, facing the migrations of 2016, become effective, may only be explored on site. Thus, the research project aims at examining the political attempts to restabilise, their actual implementation and the conflicts emerging around them directly and locally in the three central regions most “hit” by the crisis of the European border regime. Such an ethnographic analysis of bordering does not only serve the reality check of political objectives, but is also capable of taking into account non-intended effects, instances of persistency, contradictions, ambivalences, and new-old constellations of conflict, and to deduce from these possible scenarios what the future may bring for the EU, the Schengen system, the politics of migration. This also serves the objectification of the highly controversial socio-political discussions in Germany.