The EU is a very particular international organisation that aims to extend its policies, rules and practices into non-member states. This attempt has been conceptualisedas external governance and becomes particularly visible in EU projects and programmes towards neighbouring countries. This paper explores how far EU externalgovernance can extend into non-member states and assesses the competing influence of three sets of factors on policy implementation (or 'rule application') on theground: EU relational, distributional and interorganisational factors. Accounts of EU policy relations with countries in the European 'neighbourhood' often assume ageneral power imbalance in favour of the Union (EU relational factors). However, change should not only be accounted to EU influence. Commitment to EU policy couldalso be driven by environmental changes such as changing migration flows that affect policy choices in non-member states (distributional factors). Interorganisationalfactors that reflect how EU, non-member state, international and non-governmental organisations shape action on the ground through their interaction provide a thirdperspective to explain EU policy output in non-member states. External migration policy is hereby used as a test case to assess implementation dynamics in a prioritypolicy area. Rather than a story of compliance with attempts at EU external governance, this paper shows that the implementation stage almost inevitably draws out thelimits of EU external governance when engaging in concrete policy projects in non-member states.
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