A Multifaceted Game: Migration Policies and Geopolitics in the EU's Eastern Neighbourhood

Esther Ademmer, Laure Delcour

This paper argues that a geopolitical perspective is fruitful to understand current migration and asylum policies in the EU's Eastern neighbourhood, yet it contends that the geopolitics of migration are not limited to the agenda pursued by large external powers in the region. In other words, the rivalry between the EU and Russia in their increasingly contested neighbourhood is only one of the facets shaping the geopolitics of migration. The paper sheds light on the complex interaction between three sets of factors: EU migration and asylum policies in the framework of the visa liberalisation process; post-Soviet interdependences, Eurasian integration and Russia's own migration policies; and neighbouring countries' foreign policy and sector-specific agenda and interests. Based upon four case studies (Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), the paper shows that current migration and asylum policies in the four countries are shaped by EU-Russia competition only to a limited extent. We argue that while the EU has successfully pushed for policy-specific changes by using conditionality and assistance, Russia's policies (whether bilateral or multilateral, i.e. in the framework of Eurasian integration) have had a limited impact on the management of migration in neighbouring countries. The paper argues that this opens new possibilities for partner countries (whether members of the Eurasian Economic Union or associated with the EU) to engage further with the EU in migration-related cooperation. Yet we show that neighbouring countries frequently instrumentalise EU-demanded migration policies and the current refugee crisis to increase their leverage and push forward migration cooperation with the EU on more equal terms.

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