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The EU Member State Struggle over Legal Migration: Strategies to Overcome Deadlock in Council Negotiations

Christoph Roos

EU policy making in legal migration was extremely constrained due to interest heterogeneity between member states and member states and the Commission. The object of regulation itself is considered to be "a prime expression of the sovereignty of states" which makes EU integration in the immigration policy area extremely unlikely (Joppke 1999: 17). In addition, the Council maintained an intergovernmental mode of decision making which favoured decision making deadlock (Heacute;ritier 1996).Nevertheless, EU member states agreed on policies that define EU conditions of entry and residence for some migratory categories in the 2000s (Geddes 2008; Menz 2009). EU rules apply to third country nationals who are students, researchers, highly skilled workers, or family members, and to those immigrants who have already been living in a member state for some time as long-term residents. The paper presents the synopsis of a dissertation that deals with the question how member states and the Commission could overcome reoccurring deadlock in negotiations on EU immigration legislation. Case studies on the directives show why member states could accommodate their differing preferences and how EU institutions could influence policy making. The argument that is made goes beyond an assessment of some member states' motivation in locking-in their national preferences at the EU level. By utilising sociological organisation theory (Brunsson 1989; Heacute;ritier 1999) the paper argues that agreement was possible because member states as well as the Commission partitioned policies during negotiations. Partitioning describes a mechanism that reduces the scope of directives. Only narrowly defined immigrant categories are covered by partially binding EU rules. Partitioning as a mode of policy making is understood as a strategy of actors with which step-by-step a comprehensive EU immigration policy could be formed.

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