Since the mid-1980s European states have attempted to increase integration in the area of justice and home affairs. Spurred initially by concerns over theconsequences of lifting internal border control, short-stay visas was among the first policy instruments transferred to the EU-level. Today, visa policy is one of the mostharmonized areas of cooperation in the field of homeland security. Regulating access to the European Union, it is a key component of EU's border management. Yet, a closer look at the member states' visa-issuing reveals an uneven implementation pattern. Some states have a rather liberal practice and others are morerestrictive. The aim of this paper is to explain this variation. Why does the openness of Europe's borders vary from member state to member state?Existing research exploring differences in migration control across European states have focused on the presence of right wing parties, the strength of courts, colonialties, and labour market attractiveness. I argue that neither of these variables adequately explains the variation in visa practices. Instead, I show that differences in threatconstructions and trading interests account for diverging outcomes. Although visa-issuing practices vary between member states similar political dynamics are at play:migration fears and commercial interests. On this basis I discuss the prospects for a more unified visa regime and whether this is likely to lead to more open or closedborders.Methodologically, the contrasting arguments are tested using descriptive and inferential statistics drawing on a comprehensive dataset covering the short-stayvisa-issuing practice of all the Schengen members in the period from 2005 to 2009.
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