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Cooperative Competition in International Relations: a Coopetition Theory of EU Highly Skilled Migration Policy

Paulina Kosc

This paper applies the strategic theory of coopetition to the development of an EU policy for highly skilled migration. Coopetition theory derives from business strategy literature where it is used to analyse relations between multinational enterprises that engage in simultaneous cooperation and competition, for example by sharing some product development costs, while remaining commercial rivals.The first part of the paper introduces coopetition theory and discusses the assumption that in international relations states often behave like enterprises that simultaneously compete and cooperate. Subsequently the paper discusses to what extent cooperation between EU member states in the field of highly skilled migration policy can be viewed as a game of cooperative competition.The paper will argue that individual states can be viewed as multinational companies with a global reach competing with other states to attract highly skilled migrants with competitive conditions that regulate the access to domestic labour markets. Simultaneously, under conditions of strong interdependence, states are driven not only by the need for strategic flexibility (competition), but also by the need of cost and risk sharing (cooperation).The paper illustrates the analysis with evidence from the negotiation and implementation of the Blue Card directive. After a two-year transposition phase, the Directive should be fully transposed by June 2011. The paper discusses strategic positions of individual member states during the negotiations as well as the compliance problems that are apparent after the end of the transposition phase.

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