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The Development of the EU Asylum Policy: Revisiting the Venue-shopping Argument in the post-Lisbon Era

Leonard Sarah Kaunert Christian &

It is generally argued that the development of EU cooperation on asylum and migration can be best explained by the idea of ‘venue-shopping’, i.e. the search by rational policy-makers for new venues of policy-making that are more amenable to their goals. According to that perspective, the development of the EU asylum policy is the result of an attempt by EU Member States to avoid liberal constraints at the national level with a view to adopting more restrictive asylum measures at the EU level. This paper argues that, whilst this argument originally held true, various recent changes have rendered it problematic. A thorough examination of the evolution of the EU asylum policy demonstrates that, overall, it has actually become more liberal than had been envisaged by policy-makers and scholars alike a few years ago. This is mainly due to broader changes that have affected the EU ‘system of venues’, which have in turn made the EU asylum policy venue more liberal. As recent treaties have cemented such changes, it is highly unlikely that policy-makers would ever manage to develop a more restrictive policy in the EU asylum policy venue. Attempts to ‘venue-shop outwards’ into the realm of foreign policy, as an alternative, have not proved successful in the field of asylum. Therefore, it appears that the only avenue left for those willing to develop a more restrictive asylum policy in the post-Lisbon era is through increasing border controls to restrict asylum-seekers’ access to these more liberal asylum provisions.

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