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Understanding bargaining outcomes in Europe’s migration and refugee crisis: The Refugee Relocation Scheme and the EU-Turkey Statement



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Vinciguerra, Maria Chiara  ORCID logo


This thesis investigates the distribution of, and competition for, power between Member States and EU institutions in the policy formulation of the two Council Decisions on refugee relocation and the amendment of the second of these by means of the EU-Turkey Statement. In so doing, it aims to further our understanding of how Member States and central EU institutions affect bargaining outcomes and respond to pressures from different levels of governance in the making of policies in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ), particularly during Europe’s migration and refugee crisis. While previous scholars all point to the same tension between supranational and domestic politics, they neglect to account for the competing influence of Member States and the central EU institutions in (un)making policies in the AFSJ.

In order to address this literature gap, the thesis takes an institutional approach and focuses on the role, power and bargaining strategies of the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council of the EU in the policy formulation of the Refugee Relocation Scheme and the EU-Turkey Statement, including how they relate to different spheres of influence and levels of governance over the course of the decision-making processes. It does so by exploiting a theory of bargaining – Putnam’s two-level game theory – in order to determine how the interplay between domestic and supranational politics helps explaining how the Refugee Relocation Scheme became a ‘deal breaker’ for European integration in the AFSJ and the EU-Turkey Statement a success of informal governance for the EU. The empirical evidence was gathered primarily by means of a process-tracing methodology complemented with documentary research, vote analysis and semi-structured elite interviews.

The core argument advanced in this thesis is that, despite the incremental supranationalization of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), deepening European integration in the AFSJ remains very much dependent upon intergovernmental compromises, which are fundamentally guided by the interests, preferences and win-sets or sets of acceptable agreements of the six founding Member States, and above all those of the Franco-German duo. Furthermore, the analysis of the three selected cases suggests that bargaining outcomes in the AFSJ are often the by-product of domestic politics, synergistic and issue linkages, varying degrees of politicization and of interinstitutional and intergovernmental competition for power.

A key contribution of this thesis is that it moves beyond the focus of policy-makers and scholars on political impasse in JHA affairs, focusing instead on what prompts Member States to cooperate in the AFSJ, including how the distribution of power in negotiations and the nature of the policies bargained shape negotiations. From a theoretical standpoint, it has the merit of representing a rare application of Putnam’s two-level game to the study of EU negotiations, a much-cited yet underused framework of analysis. It also provides a systematic analysis of bargaining and preference formation in the EU, which represents a crucial and timely contribution to the theorisation of the process of European (dis)integration in the AFSJ. In so doing, it furthers the ongoing debate on the nature of EU decision-making on migration, asylum and border control issues, including how crises in turn affect the EU’s internal balance of power.





Smith, Julie
Bickerton, christopher


European Union, two-level game, EU institutions, refugee crisis, EU-Turkey relations, relocation


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Fondation Wiener-Anspach