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Utopia of Refugee Relocation in the European Union

Tatia Tavkhelidze

The dynamic of European integration led European Union being important actor at multiple stages, but can the Union be always effective change maker? That is a question stipulating current research. Nothing questions effectiveness of EU actions more than current asylum crisis. To remedy the situation Council adopted decision about the relocation of refugees from Italy and Greece to other Member States in 2015. Since States were reluctant to meet the legal requirements of the Council decision, this provisional measure failed to ensure fair sharing of asylum burden. The Union has been criticized for ineffectiveness by many scholars due to the flaws of EU relocation mechanism, but existing literature is limited with the discussion on legal weakness as such and does not comprehend the causes. For this reason, this article analysis the weak points of EU refugee relocation in the broad theoretical framework and suggests in-depth study of EU legal tools aimed at fair distribution of asylum seekers amongst Member States. The main question is why refugee relocation failed to remedy uneven distribution of asylum burden. Though burden-sharing refers to many aspects, the research is limited with the physical allocation of asylum seekers in the EU that maintains focus on the most critical point of on-going asylum crisis.The article takes hypothetical approach that the idea of refugee relocation was doomed to fail at initial stage. It aims to prove utopia of refugee relocation remedying uneven distribution of asylum seekers in the EU, whereas the Union consists of nation states following their national interests. It has roots in theoretical constraints on the effectiveness of law which derive from the characteristics of laws and legal systems formulated by Anthony Allott in 1981. The problem is threefold: First, the interpretive law; second, EU interests colliding with national interests of EU Member States; and third, inefficiency of EU institutions. These three ramification of research requires a combination of effective research methods to explain the failure of EU refugee relocation and to prove utopistic character of such law. Hence, the article applies the method of qualitative content analysis for the actions of EU institutions and Member States supporting and opposing this provisional measure. This is also effective method to interpret the wording of legal text providing legal bases for the refugee relocation. Since EU states have differently responded to the legal obligation, the research applies multiple case study. Cases of Germany, Austria and Poland illustrate overall reaction of states towards relocation mechanism, which at the end sums up the utopia of ensuring solidarity in the allocation of asylum seekers. The foreseen research findings have great practical value for the refinement of Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and it enriches the literature on this topic. Furthermore, the problem clears ‘change-making’ power of the Union and leads discussion to the advanced level, whether Union needs more exclusive competence to be effective actor on the stage, or the dynamic of European integration faces stagnation that conditions deficient EU performance.

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