Solidarity. From the Heart or by Force ?

The Failed German Leadership in the EU’s Refugee and Migrant Crisis

Master's Thesis, 2018

73 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents

Statutory Declaration

Déclaration sur l’honneur



List of Figures

List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction

2. Political leadership
2.1. What is political leadership?
2.2. When, why and how do political leaders emerge?
2.3. Political leadership in the EU

3. Post-functionalism: a concept to understand domestic political constraints

4. The EU’s refugee and migrant crisis
4.1. What is a political crisis?
4.2. Main features of the EU’s asylum and migration policy
4.3. Course of the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis
4.4. Germany’s role in the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis

5. Qualitative content analysis
5.1. Methodology
5.2. Analysis of newspaper articles and interviews
5.3. Putting things together: Why did German leadership largely fail?

6. Conclusion and outlook



ANNEX I: List of conducted interviews

ANNEX II: Selected newspaper articles from ‘Die Welt’

ANNEX III: Selected newspaper articles from ‘The Guardian’

ANNEX IV: Selected newspaper articles from ‘Le Monde’

Statutory Declaration

I hereby declare that this thesis has been written by myself without any external unauthorised help, that it has been neither presented to any institution for evaluation nor previously published in its entirety or in parts. Any parts, words or ideas, of the thesis, however limited, and including tables, graphs, maps etc., which are quoted from or based on other sources, have been acknowledged as such without exception.

Moreover, I have also taken note and accepted the College rules with regard to plagiarism (Section 4.2 of the College study regulations).

If eligible, I agree with my thesis being placed in the College library, as well as having the abstract of my thesis placed on the College website.

Déclaration sur l’honneur

Je déclare sur l’honneur que ce mémoire a été écrit de ma main, sans aide extérieure non autorisée, qu’il n’a été présenté auparavant dans aucune autre institution pour évaluation, et qu’il n’a jamais été publié, dans sa totalité ou en partie. Toutes parties, mots ou idées, aussi limités soient-ils, y compris des tableaux, graphiques, cartes etc. qui sont empruntés ou qui font référence à d’autres sources bibliographiques sont présentés comme tels, sans exception aucune.

Je déclare également avoir pris note et accepté les règles relatives au plagiat (section 4.2 du règlement d’études du Collège).

Words: 23.049


In the years 2015 and 2016, the European Union (EU) and (some of) its member states were facing a very high number on asylum-seekers. This inflow revealed the shortcomings and dysfunctionalities of the European asylum system and plunged the EU into one of its biggest crises: Member states could hardly agree on common measures, and different national preferences for dealing with asylum-seekers led to profound and ongoing political divisions.

Germany, which particularly was affected by the inflow, sought to ‘europeanize’ the phenomenon and to distribute the loads more evenly across the EU – but met major resistance. Contrarily to the widely held view – both in the academic literature and the European public – that Germany, in recent years, has shaped and even dominated European politics, it largely failed with its main policy proposals in the refugee and migrant crisis. To uncover the reasons, the present thesis applies an analytical model of ‘political leadership’. Based on current academic research, relevant newspaper articles and self-conducted expert interviews, it is argued that there might have been supply but not sufficient demand for successful German political leadership. In doing so, this thesis so far is the only larger academic paper that explicitly links the latest research on political leadership with Germany's role in the EU's refugee and migrant crisis.


Political leadership


Refugees and migrant crisis

Relocation scheme


List of Figures

Figure 1: Asylum-applications in EU and Germany 2012-2016

Figure 2: Asylum-applications in selected EU member states 2012-2016.

Figure 3: Satisfaction with the politician Angela Merkel

Figure 4: National voting intentions.

Figure 5: Provisional category system

Figure 6: Updated category system

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1. Introduction

In the years 2015 and 2016, the European Union (EU) faced an unprecedented number of refugees and migrants[1] entering its territory. As it soon turned out, the EU’s existing regulatory framework was ill equipped to absorb this inflow. The main reason for the drastic increase was in the political instability and worsening humanitarian situation in states of the Middle East, especially in the civil war country Syria. People also fled from other crisis regions from terror and violence but equally from poverty and economic hardship. Globally speaking, in the years 2015 and 2016, so many people were fleeing as never before since the end of the Second World War. In this respect, Europe as a refuge was by no means the exception, as the huge reception camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Libya show. Yet, the migratory flows led to fierce political discussions and disputes within the EU: Not only did they reveal different national views on how best to deal with refugees and have given impetus to nationalist, partly xenophobic political parties. The management of the migratory flows also had and still has the potential to deepen cultural-political divisions within the EU and to inflict damage on the overall project of European integration.

Germany, arguably the EU’s most powerful member state, played a particular prominent role in the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis[2]. Having received by far the most asylum-applications in absolute numbers and having been the preferred destination for most of the people coming to Europe, Germany sought for a decisive impact on the crisis management. Especially the German chancellor moved center stage and called for a common European approach. Yet, through some rather unilateral actions, she distanced herself from important elements of the EU’s existing asylum framework that Germany in previous years had strongly supported. The German government’s comparatively liberal stance on asylum soon met the opposition of other member states, with some of them preferring national to EUwide measures and criticizing Germany of imposing its policy preferences on others. Indeed, during the crisis, both the initial German and the broader EU approach shifted from rather liberal to more restrictive initiatives and measures, and from a rather internal to an external dimension of crisis management.

Against this background, the present thesis deals with the German leadership in the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis. More specifically, it asks why Germany only to a very limited extent was able to successfully exercise leadership. Using ‘political leadership’ as an analytical framework, the thesis explores when and why a political leader emerges, and when and why political leadership can be successful. To make the framework fruitful for empirical research, it distinguishes between the supply of and the demand for political leadership. It also focusses on followers and the political and institutional context for leadership services.

Combining ‘political leadership’ with the management of the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis and the role that Germany played, the thesis intends to bridge an important gap in the academic literature. No larger study so far has explicitly asked about German political leadership in the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis.

The thesis argues that German leadership has largely failed in such a way that the original German policy solutions to the crisis proved politically divisive and hardly enforceable, and that they ultimately were partly abandoned by the German government itself. These findings contrast with most of the latest academic literature on German European politics which state that Germany, in recent years, has shaped EU politics to a considerable extent and often has ‘uploaded’ its national preferences to the EU level. This in particular is true for the Eurozone crisis that led some scholars to find a German leadership or even hegemony in EU politics. Yet, as this thesis argues, the refugee and migrant crisis was different because there might have been supply of German leadership services but not sufficient demand for their truly successful exertion (hypothesis 1).

Indeed, Germany – both nationally and internationally – arguably was in a good position to offer leadership services when the number of refugees and migrants started to rise in Europe in early summer 2015: Germany had a stable government with a large majority in parliament and a chancellor who had been in office for ten years and who had consolidated her international authority thanks to her performance in previous EU crisis management. Also, the government broadly agreed with the European Commission when it came to their preferred answers to the crisis, and it found important allies in other EU member states that were affected in a similar way by the migratory pressures. Yet, a key preferred German solution – an automatic and mandatory mechanism for the relocation of refugees among the EU member states – did not find sufficient political support. A weakened version of this mechanism was eventually introduced in September 2015 but from the outset evoked much criticism and resistance. The heated discussions on the relocation mechanism originate from the asymmetric ‘burdens’ member states were experiencing in terms of migratory pressures. They also reveal different attitudes and preferences when it comes to asylum and migration policy. The solidarity between member states, anchored at various passages in the EU Treaties and often referred to in political discussions on Europe, has been pushed to clear limits.

In order to unfold the central claim that German leadership in the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis – although there might have been sufficient supply – largely failed because of the little demand for it, the thesis argues that this little demand can be explained by various factors: First, many other EU member states were only little or not at all affected by migratory pressures as most people wanted to move to Northern European countries, mostly Germany (hypothesis 2a). Second, many other national governments were not willing to agree on burden-sharing because they were facing national political parties and populations that were skeptical or even hostile towards refugees and migrants (hypothesis 2b). Third, other member states perceived the German government to impose its policy solutions on them without having been able to make their concerns heard (hypothesis 2c). And fourth, the German government, by arguing for a substantial reform of the EU’s asylum system, had undermined its own leadership potential in previous years when it essentially had praised and defended this very system (hypothesis 2d). Crucially, when the numbers of refugees and migrants coming to Europe did not decrease and a common European solution to the crisis was not in sight, the German policy approach itself shifted to more restrictive preferences and measures. This mainly happened because of the ongoing opposition at the EU level and growing resistance at the domestic level (hypothesis 3).

The thesis is structured as follows: Chapter two presents central elements of and for political leadership as developed in political science literature and delineates the concept from related ones such as ‘power’ and ‘hegemony’ (2.1), and it distinguishes between the supply and demand side to better work out the success conditions for political leadership (2.2). It also discusses political leadership in the particular context of European integration and the EU’s polity (2.3). Chapter three briefly refers to post-functionalism as a comparatively recent theoretical approach that tries to explain new developments in European integration such as more Eurosceptical national populations, changes in party-political systems and a narrowed scope of action for national politicians at the EU level.

The fourth chapter deals with the course of the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis. Before looking at the actual events, this chapter explores what ‘political crisis’ in the European context means and can imply (4.1), and it explains the major developments and deficits of the EU’s asylum policy as well as Germany’s traditional interests and preferences in this policy area (4.2). It then gives a rather chronological overview of the events that constitute the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis. The thesis focusses on the period between 13 May 2015 when the European Commission presented a European Agenda on Migration and hence the refugee and migration topic ‘officially’ became subject of wider political discussions in the EU, and 18 March 2016 when a political agreement of the EU with Turkey entered into force with the clear political aim to reduce the number of people coming to Europe. Covering this period will help to illustrate the shift in the policy approach that took place, both at the EU level and in Germany (4.3). Finally, Germany’s role in the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis, as assessed in the academic literature, is analyzed (4.4).

Chapter five seeks to more systematically detect and analyze the failed German leadership and the government’s shift towards a more restrictive policy approach. It does so through a qualitative content analysis of newspaper articles and the evaluation of expert interviews. First, the methodology, scope and limitations of the analysis are explained (5.1). The content analysis is based on 79 articles from three leading European newspapers that cover the period from 13 May 2016 (European Agenda on Migration) to early December 2015 when Slovakia and Hungary launched legal action at the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) against the relocation mechanism. 14 expert interviews with civil servants, politicians, journalists and academics, both from Germany and other EU member states, have been conducted in Brussels and on the phone during March and April 2018 (5.2). Finally, combining the assessment of the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis in the academic literature with own findings, the thesis tests the hypotheses raised above and presents some new and nuanced explanations for the failed German leadership. A category system is developed to illustrate how different patterns of interpretation (‘frames’) – created and pursued by different actors – can explain the only moderate demand for German leadership (5.3). Chapter six summarizes the main findings and makes some remarks on the EU’s dealing with the crisis, and it shortly addresses the possible future reform of the EU’s asylum system (6).

2. Political leadership

2.1. What is political leadership?

The groundwork for theorizing political leadership was laid by the US-American political scientist and historian James MacGregor Burns.[3] For Burns, a leader is an individual that acts in line with followers and their values and motivations. Burns sees leadership as a social relationship that allows the leader and the followers to take part in a common enterprise. If there is no common goal, there cannot be leadership. Burns himself defines political leadership as follows:

“Leadership over human beings is exercised when persons with certain motives and purposes mobilize, in competition or conflict with others, institutional, political, psychological or other resources so as to arouse, engage, and satisfy the motives of followers. This is done in order to realize goals mutually held by both leaders and followers.”[4]

Robert Elgie provides insights into the interaction process between a (potential) leader and the leadership environment. His analysis focuses on institutional settings as the main explanatory factors for variations in the exertion of political leadership.[5] In political science literature today, relational models of political leadership are dominant. They take into account personal, institutional, societal and politico-situational factors. Those models examine which ‘corridors of action’ exist for leadership services on the basis of given framework conditions. Accordingly, leadership always takes place within a certain corridor of resources and constraints.[6] As Elgie points out in a more recent work, political leaders do operate within a specific environment that limits their room for maneuver and shapes their behavior; at the same time, however, leaders might also be able to affect and potentially change their outside world.[7] In terms of assessment, the measurement of leadership services is hampered by the many possible – known as well as unknown – intervening variables[8], such as elections, the economic cycle and spontaneous political events.

Looking at the corpus of literature, one can identify some essential elements of and for political leadership: First, power is understood as the “ability to affect the behavior of others to get the outcomes one wants”.[9] Power is based on material, institutional or ideational resources.[10] Second, leadership is the power to orient and mobilize others and therefore implies followers that move in the same direction.[11] Third, leader and followers need to pursuit a common goal: “The social leader-follower pact is based primarily on the compatibility of the leader’s objectives, as perceived by the followers, with the latter’s own preferences”.[12] Fourth, political leadership is the result of an interaction between, on the one hand, the leader’s characteristics and her followers and, on the other hand, between the leader’s characteristics and her political environment.[13] And fifth, successful political leadership results in a change to the status quo that is, innovation.[14]

Consequently, a definition of political leadership should at best contain all those elements. For Nye, leadership is a social relationship with the three components of leader(s), followers and the context in which they interact. He defines leaders as those who help a group to create and achieve shared goals.[15] Fliegauf and colleagues define political leadership as the “continuous social interaction pattern of two protagonists: the leader on the one hand and his followers on the other”. They argue that political leadership “serves a particular group to set up and achieve jointly perceived political goals”.[16] Schoeller, finally, defines political leadership as the “process where an actor in a formal or informal position of authority uses her power resources in such a way as to guide the behaviour of others towards a common goal. In the case of success, this process results in innovation, namely policy or institutional change.”[17] I will propose my own definition of political leadership further below after having delineated it from similar concepts and looked more closely at conditions for successful political leadership, especially in the EU context.

A similar concept to leadership that is often referred to in political science literature is hegemony. Unfortunately, the distinction between hegemony and leadership is not always clear. Paterson opened the ‘new hegemony debate’ by arguing that, during the Eurozone crisis, Germany had emerged as a “reluctant hegemon” mainly due to its strong economy and its principal creditor status.[18] Moreover, Germany was perceived to impose its policy of austerity on those Eurozone countries that were facing sovereign debt problems.[19] Hegemony, from a normative point of view, indeed is problematic: The concept mainly refers to International Relations and often comes close to power, domination and coercion.[20] A German hegemony would quickly have its limits because it lacks the full acceptance of (all) the other EU member states.[21] Rather, the European integration can be seen as an explicit attempt for non-hegemonic cooperation.[22]

Leadership and hegemony differ not necessarily in the leader’s power resources and its status of authority, but in the specific relationship between leader and followers. Lindenthal distinguishes between ‘coercive leadership’ and ‘benevolent leadership’: As the former relies on power, interests and the exertion of ‘hard’ power resources in order to achieve one’s own goals – if necessary against the intention of others –, she states that coercive leadership would better be described as hegemony.[23] Only in the latter case, benevolent leadership, one can truly speak of leadership: Here, the leader seeks to provide common goods such as stability, security and order. It is excluded that the leader dominates or even exploits others.

Instead, he mainly exercises ‘soft’ power. It is in the leader’s responsibility to meet the needs and demands of his followers.[24] Leadership is maintained and exercised as long as the leader is willing and able to do so, and as long as he receives the fellowship’s approval; otherwise, the leader ceased to be a leader. Crucially, leadership builds upon an equal relationship between the partners involved, and leadership relies on voluntariness. This is where the leadership’s legitimacy originates from.[25]

2.2. When, why and how do political leaders emerge?

In order to make the concept of political leadership applicable for empirical social science research, it must be operationalized. There need to be criteria for when, why and how a leader emerges, and for when to speak of successful leadership. Magnus G. Schoeller operationalizes political leadership “as a way of overcoming collective action problems in situations where there are no adequate institutions to regulate the collective action”. He distinguishes between three possible outcomes of political leadership: the non-appearance of leadership, a failed leadership, and a successful leadership.[26]

Building upon conventional explanations in political science literature of demand for and supply of integration[27], one can similarly argue for the exertion of political leadership to be a necessary – although not inevitably sufficient – condition that both a demand for and a supply of leadership services are present; otherwise, the result would be the non-appearance of leadership. According to Schoeller, a leader emerges from status quo costs that are caused by suboptimal collective action outcomes: If the status quo costs are high, the actors involved perceive a high pressure for action. Consequently, there is a demand for leadership. On the other hand, if an actor concludes that leading would make him better off, he offers leadership. This is the supply side of leadership.[28]

Once a leader has emerged, he attempts to achieve the desired policy and institutional change. A leader’s success depends on three conditions: First, the suitability of the leader’s power resources. Second, the followers’ support, which, in turn, relies on the distribution of preferences among the possible followers: Generally speaking, the stronger the convergence of preferences around the leader’s preferred outcome, the stronger his impact on that very outcome. And third, the leader’s success depends on the requirements of the respective institutional constraints, such as actor constellations and the underlying decision-making rules in a given policy regime.[29]

2.3. Political leadership in the EU

There is general agreement in the literature that the EU lacks a clear leadership structure. This is mainly because of the fragmented character of the EU polity and a lack of strong institutional resources.[30] Hayward states that the management of European integration over more than 50 years has failed to generate an identifiable leadership.[31] Compared to the national level, indeed, many (potential) leaders dominate the European scene. There is no single authority. Instead, many actors pursue different, sometimes diverging interests. They must cater different followers and constituents at different political levels, often at the same time.[32] Moreover, due to lengthy and complex deliberations and negotiations, decisions on the EU level are taken late – or not at all. Particularly in situations of crisis, the system of fragmented leadership risks not to work: “The political system of the EU often seems unable or slow to respond to pressing matters.”[33]

A constant potential conflict within the EU’s polity lies in the immanent contradiction between leadership and integration: One may well ask whether and to which extent the role of some powerful member states is compatible with the principle of equality between all member states which very much is at the heart of European integration. On the other hand, it is equally true that the willingness and capability of some member states to lead often are necessary preconditions for the decision-making capacity of European institutions and for policy developments. In this respect, member states have a different assertiveness. Yet, a permanent leadership by a few states, or even a single state, entails the risk to turn into domination and coercion – and hence into hegemony –, as it no longer enjoys the support of others. Traditionally, the Franco-German ‘duo’ has played a special leadership role in European integration, precisely because it is not a unilateral but a joint leadership. Against this background, Pedersen has introduced the term ‘cooperative hegemony’: In many cases, other EU member states can identify with a joint Franco-German approach, as Germany and France themselves initially had held different policy positions before agreeing on compromise solutions.[34]

Regarding the previous remarks and qualifications, I will define political leadership as an actor’s attempt to mobilize, via social interaction and within certain framework conditions, followers towards a common goal which implies a change to the status quo. Successful political leadership is operationalized in such a way that both supply of and demand for leadership are present, and that the leader can make use of her power resources to achieve a common goal thanks to a general convergence of preferences between leader and followers.

3. Post-functionalism: a concept to understand domestic political constraints

The present thesis seeks to explain why key German proposals to deal with the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis and the relatively liberal stance of chancellor Merkel were largely opposed by other EU member states. In this regard, this chapter primarily focusses on the demand side for German political leadership. Post-functionalism – a comparatively new approach in European integration theory – gives indications on domestic political constraints that national governments might face when dealing with questions of European integration, and hence also on their room of maneuver for the possible transfer of national competences to the EU level. Post-functionalist theory, as developed by Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks[35], claims that, first, European integration – essentially after the entry into force of the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993 –, increasingly has become politicized in national elections and referenda. Second, and as a result, the preferences of national political parties and the general public have become decisive for political and jurisdictional outcomes of negotiations at the EU level. And third, national identity is regarded crucial for the shaping of national political discourses on Europe.

Hooghe and Marks postulate that politicization is responsible for the generally higher political contestation of European integration and might be decisive for the future course of the latter. ‘Politicization’ can be described as the growing awareness of, the mobilization around, and the polarization of EU politics.[36] Due to the EU’s increasing authority over time – that is, the transfer of competences to supranational institutions and the broadening of EU competences across policy areas –, domestic and European politics have become tightly coupled. Indeed, European integration has moved into core areas of nation state sovereignty and produces effects that reach deeply into national financial, economic and welfare policies.[37] As the European integration project has become the object of controversial “mass politics”[38], national governments have become more responsive to public pressures on EU politics. As stated by Hooghe and Marks: Domestic politics are no longer insulated from Europe, and the EU is no longer insulated from domestic politics.[39]

Importantly, new structural conflicts over national sovereignty, national identity and transnational solidarity have emerged.[40] The increasing scope and depth of European integration, on the one hand, and stable national identities, on the other, bear the potential of political conflicts. There is a constricted room for national governments to achieve political agreements at the EU level because the political elite no longer can rely on their citizens’ ‘permissive consensus’.[41] The present thesis argues that the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis is a ‘critical event’ in European integration[42] that brings together conflicts over sovereignty, identity and solidarity, and that led to a high degree of politicization. Indeed, this crisis both went at the very heart of the ‘cultural-identitarian’ dimension of the European integration project[43], and it highlighted political and public contestation because of the EU’s shift from market integration to the integration of ‘core state powers’[44].

4. The EU’s refugee and migrant crisis

4.1. What is a political crisis?

Political crises can be described as “moments of truth”, as “critical junctures” that are characterized by a high level of contingency and risk potential.[45] A crisis challenges existing policies, paradigms, institutional roles and rules, and tend to have an impact on the rulers as well as the ruled. Furthermore, a crisis is characterized by complexity, interdependence and politicization. It generates threat, uncertainty and discontinuity, and most of the time leads to policy or institutional changes. A major question in the heat of the crisis is who is politically responsible to addressing it.[46]

To complicate matters, a crisis requires a rapid response – although there often is no institutionalized and proven process to deal with the problem. At the EU level, crises are characterized by the fact that they are transnational in nature, directly or indirectly affecting more than a single member state. This, on the other hand, opens up possibilities because member states may recognize their reciprocal dependence and conclude that certain crises are better dealt with together. Transnational politicians might develop a “problem-solving instinct” and follow a common response.[47] Identifying different patterns of EU crisis management, Wessels and colleagues state that before agreeing on a common reaction, member states always individually examine whether the problem is a European one or rather the problem of certain member states.[48]

4.2. Main features of the EU’s asylum and migration policy

In the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), member states have successively transferred political competences to the EU level. The former third pillar of the Treaty of Maastricht, for example, that dealt with JHA, has been fully ‘communitized’ with the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. Also, the initially bilateral Schengen agreement of 1985 that to a large extent has abolished internal border controls between participating states, was transferred into EU law with the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999. The term ‘area of freedom, security and justice’ (AFSJ), introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam and now listed in Article 3(2) of the Treaty on European Union, subsumes home affairs and justice policies. The AFSJ is part of the shared competences of the EU as laid down in Article 4 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU): The heads of State or Government, in the European Council, agree on the strategic guidelines for legislative and operational programming. It is then up to the European Commission to bring forward legislative initiatives. Decisions in AFSJ matters are usually made jointly by the Council – in the composition of either the interior or justice ministers of the member states (JHA Council) – and the European Parliament, with the Council deciding via qualified majority.[49] The CJEU examines the procedures’ legality.

Based on the Schengen agreement, all EU member states (except for the United Kingdom and Ireland) as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland have repealed controls at their common national borders. The creation of such a ‘common area’ requires the joint strengthening of the EU’s external borders and, at the same time, common EU rules for asylum and immigration. National politicians mostly recognize the need for such a common policy approach. Yet, they are quite reluctant to transfer further sovereignty rights in the politically sensitive field of internal security, asylum and immigration to the EU level. This is one of the fundamental dilemmas in the AFSJ.[50]

A cornerstone of the EU’s asylum system is the Dublin Regulation[51] that determines the member state responsible for dealing with an asylum application. The most used criterium is that of first-entrance which means that the member state is responsible through which the asylum-applicant first accessed EU territory. The main rationale of the Dublin Regulation is to reduce secondary movement (so-called ‘asylum shopping’) by preventing asylum-applicants from moving inside the Schengen area in order to get to a country with more liberal asylum policies and better living conditions.[52] As, traditionally, most asylum-applicants come from Northern Africa and the Middle East by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, this criterium poses disproportionate pressure on the EU’s South-Eastern borderline countries, namely Italy and Greece.[53] In this regard, the EU’s asylum system was born as “intrinsically asymmetrical”, with its structure reflecting the strategic interests of some richer, Northern member states.[54]

The Dublin system is based on the premise that asylum-seekers throughout the EU find a fair and comparable treatment. The EU, and primarily the Commission, therefore try to approximate the asylum procedures and reception conditions in the individual member states. The aim of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) – a multi-annual working program for the first time agreed on by the European Council in 1999[55] – is to come from common minimum standards to a truly harmonized EU asylum system.[56] In 2013, the EU established a renewed CEAS that was supposed to grant comparable protection standards across member states and to regulate the distribution of asylum-seekers. The Commission, in the same year, called for some further supranational centralization and the creation of a European Border and Coast Guard Agency with more competences than the existing agency,

Frontex[57]. According to the Commission’s proposal, that Agency – via a distribution key system – would have been able to require EU member states to take timely corrective action once a member state was facing a disproportionate number of asylum applications. The latter proposal, however, did not find the necessary majority amongst the member states.[58]

Germany, which itself has no Schengen external borders, in recent years often had only been subject to little and rather indirect asylum pressure. This can explain why the German government had not played a pro-active leadership role in the field of internal security, asylum and immigration before the summer of 2015. The Dublin Regulation basically is in line with German interests, as Germany is surrounded by so-called ‘safe countries of origin’ – by definition, every EU member state (plus Switzerland) is a safe country of origin. Although Germany – even under the Dublin Regulation – cannot immediately refuse asylum if an applicant enters German territory from a safe country of origin, it is possible to trace this person to the EU state where he or she first entered EU territory.[59] Accordingly, in the past, changes to the system which would have contradicted German interests, such as a reform of the Dublin Regulation, were opposed and prevented.[60] Indeed, a reform proposal by the Commission from 2011[61] included a mechanism to more equally distribute refugees among the member states: As back then mainly some Southern EU countries were affected by migratory pressures and had to cope with the costs of unequal distribution, the other member states decided against such a mechanism. This example illustrates that member states tend to only calculate immediate costs and benefits instead of also taking into account the longer-term perspective and future risks.[62]

4.3. Course of the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis

In the year 2015, there were more than 1.32 million asylum applications in the EU. Germany counted 476,510, representing 37 percent of all applications. In 2016, the number of asylum applications in the EU was about 1.26 million and at 745,155 in Germany, which corresponds to a share of 59 percent (for a longer-term comparison, see Figure 1 below). While Germany, in the years prior to 2013, accounted for between 10 and 23 percent of all asylum applications lodged in the EU, this share increased in 2013 and reached its highest level in 2016. Yet, one must note that not all the refugees and migrants that came to Germany in 2015 lodged an asylum application in that year; in fact, by the end of 2015, about one million people had arrived in Germany within one year, with many of them eventually lodging their asylum-application only in 2016.

Figure 1: Asylum-applications in EU and Germany 2012-2016

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Eurostat Database: Asylum and first-time asylum applicants (own illustration)

In terms of asylum-applicant per inhabitant, more applications had been lodged, in 2015 and before, in Hungary, Sweden and Austria than in Germany (see Figure 2 below). This changed distinctively in 2016, once again because of the high number of people that had arrived in Germany the year before. Figure 2 also shows that the borderline countries Italy and Greece, relatively, received few asylum-applications, which illustrates the dysfunctionalities of the Dublin regime.

Figure 2: Asylum-applications in selected EU member states 2012-2016

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Eurostat Database: Asylum and first-time asylum applicants (own calculations and illustration)

Most of the refugees and migrants that reached Europe in 2015 and 2016 did so by crossing over either from Northern African states to the Italian island of Lampedusa or from Turkey to Greek islands such as Lesvos, Kos and Samos. Many of the latter continued their journey on foot through the so-called ‘Western Balkan route’ with the goal to reach Northern EU countries.[63] At the latest by August 2015, then, in view of overchallenged local authorities and the fact that people willing to move on could hardly be stopped, Western Balkan states started to allow or even to organize their onward journey.[64]

The European Commission quite early presented initiatives that sought to provide both shortterm and longer-term solutions to the looming crisis.[65] The immediate trigger was the sinking of a refugee boat in the Mediterranean Sea on 19 April 2015, in which more than 800 people died. On 13 May 2015, the Commission launched a European Agenda on Migration that called for “coordinated action at the European level” and stated that “[n]o Member State can effectively address migration alone. It is clear that we need a new, more European approach”.[66] Due to the shortcomings of the existing asylum system, the Commission announced for the end of May 2015 a proposal for a “temporary distribution scheme for persons in clear need of international protection to ensure a fair and balanced participation of all Member States to this common effort”.[67] Furthermore, as the “EU needs a permanent system for sharing the responsibility for large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers among Member States”, the Commission announced a legislative proposal for the end of 2015 “to provide for a mandatory and automatically-triggered relocation system to distribute those in clear need of international protection within the EU when a mass influx emerges”.[68]

Consequently, on 27 May 2015, the Commission proposed to use the ‘emergency response mechanism’ – established in Article 78(3) TFEU[69] – to set up an ‘emergency relocation scheme’. This scheme was intended to relieve the Southern borderline countries Italy and Greece by relocating, over the following two years, 40,000 Syrians and Eritreans who had arrived in those two countries after 15 April 2015, following a ‘distribution key’ that would take into account a member state’s economic power, size of population, unemployment rate and past numbers of asylum-seekers.[70] The European Council[71], on 25 and 26 June 2015, agreed on the temporary and exceptional relocation of those 40,000 refugees, whereas the JHA Council failed to reach this number but, in a Resolution on 20 July 2015 and by consensus,[72] pledged to relocate at least 32,256 refugees from Italy and Greece (and, additionally, to resettle 22,504 persons from outside the EU).

However, the realization of the Resolution proved difficult, first and foremost because the number of refugees continued to increase far beyond the approved figures. This is why, on 9 September 2015, the Commission launched a second implementation package[73] containing several measures, two of which are particularly relevant for the present research: First, a new temporary ‘emergency relocation’ proposal involved 120,000 people in clear need of international protection – that is, refugees with an average recognition rate of more than 75 percent – from Greece (50,400), Hungary (54,000) and Italy (15,600), in addition to the 40,000 from the first implementation package. Second, a ‘Permanent Relocation Mechanism for all Member States’ was proposed that could “be triggered any time by the Commission to help any EU-Member State experiencing a crisis situation and extreme pressure on its asylum system as a result of a large and disproportionate inflow of third country nationals”. In the latter case also, member states would be obliged to accept the number of asylum-applicants as decided by the Commission in accordance with the four formal criteria from the first implementation package.[74]

For 14 September 2015, the Luxembourg Council presidency convened an extraordinary JHA Council meeting to respond to the escalating crisis. The JHA Council indeed agreed to relocate the 40,000 refugees from the first implementation package.[75] In the aftermath, however, negotiations around the temporary relocation scheme were highly confrontational because several member states, in particular the four Visegrad countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia)[76], were opposing the relocation of the additional 120,000 refugees. Hungary soon signalized that it would not participate in the relocation, although it would have profited from the scheme. Another JHA Council on 22 September 2015[77], crucially, adopted the Commission’s proposal to relocate an additional 120,000 newly arrived refugees from Italy and Greece by September 2017, although this again officially was declared as a ‘temporary’ and ‘exceptional’ measure: The decision was achieved by a qualified majority vote, mainly due to Poland lifting its initial objection and against the votes of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, with Finland abstaining.[78] Scholars have interpreted the 22 September 2015 vote as “an unprecedented step in the JHA domain” and saw high political costs at stake because “for the first time since the 2004 enlargement there was a clear ‘East-West’ split visible”.[79]

Indeed, regarding the informal norm of consensus-seeking in the JHA Council,[80] the actual use of qualified majority voting in such a sovereignty-sensitive issue “has been remarkable and highlights the extent to which EU decision-making processes on asylum issues have become contested”.[81] On 2 and 3 December, Slovakia and Hungary filed a lawsuit over the decision at the CJEU.[82] It has to be noted that – apart from the political tensions – the practical implementation of the relocation scheme was rather poor.[83] However, it is equally true that many of the 160,000 refugees to be relocated were physically not ‘available’ because, first, it took the borderline countries – and namely Greece – a long time to register the arriving people and, second, many of the people did not qualify for relocation as they were rather migrants than refugees. So, while some member states indeed had a poor implementation in terms of relocation, a judgement on the performance of each state must be much more nuanced.[84]

In addition to this ‘internal’ dimension of crisis management, the EU and its member states, in their attempt to better control – and reduce – the flow of refugees and migrants, most visibly since late autumn 2015, shifted their focus on better controlling the EU’s external borders.[85] Among other things, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency was launched on 6 October 2016[86], with more than 1,500 additional officers deployed to support the national border guards. Furthermore, ‘hotspots’ have been established in Greece and Italy to help the local authorities to manage the incoming migratory flows and to more efficiently distinguish between refugees and migrants. More importantly, the EU sought to reduce the number of people through a political agreement with Turkey that eventually entered into force on 18 March 2016.

The EU Turkey Statement[87] addresses irregular migration from the Turkish mainland to the Greek islands and mainly concerns Syrian war refugees: For every Syrian that had irregularly arrived in Greece, whose asylum application had been declared inadmissible by the Greek authorities and who was sent back to Turkey, the EU receives a Syrian refugee on a ‘safe pathway’ from Turkey. The EU-Turkey Statement can be seen as the “hallmark example”[88] for a new European approach, putting a stronger emphasis on the ‘externalization’ of asylum and immigration policy and focusing on ‘transactional bilateral migration partnerships’ with strategically important third countries. In the meantime, EU member states increasingly had started to pursue national measures in order to reduce the number of refugees and migrants arriving, such as the construction of fences, their rejection by force or the arrest of irregular migrants. From the middle of February 2016, Austria and other states on the Western Balkan route tried to permanently close their borders for refugees from Greece.[89]

4.4. Germany’s role in the EU’s refugee and migrant crisis

As illustrated above, in 2015, the number of asylum applications in both the EU and Germany sharply increased. In summer 2015, pictures and reports in the media of overcrowded reception camps in the states along the Western Balkan route became more frequent. In particular, the humanitarian situation of refugees at the Budapest Keleti train station worsened. On 21 August 2015, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees [Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, briefly BAMF] unilaterally decided to suspend the Dublin rules for Syrian refugees, allowing those who had not lodged an asylum application in their first EU country of entry to do so in Germany – this being a direct reaction to the situation at the Budapest station.[90] On 27 August 2015, the corpses of 71 people who wanted to enter Austria from Hungary were found in a refrigerated truck in the Austrian town of Parndorf, causing world-wide dismay and increasing the pressure on European policy-makers to come up with solutions to the crisis.

On 4 and 5 September 2015, German chancellor Merkel, after consultation with Austria’s chancellor Faymann, ‘officially’ decided to let Syrian refugees from Budapest who were crossing Austria, lodge their asylum-application in Germany, therewith confirming the BAMF’s move not to apply the Dublin rules.[91] A few days before, at her traditional summer press conference on 31 August 2015[92], Merkel – with regards to the high number of people coming to Germany and the country’s receiving capacities – stated “We can do this [Wir schaffen das]”. She referred to Germany’s ‘orderly conditions’, its liberal and dedicated civil society, its capacity for flexibility in tough times and its constitutional imperatives according to which the fundamental right to asylum knows no ‘upper limits’:

“Our freedom, our state of law, our economic strength, the order in which we are living together. That is what people dream of who have met in their lives persecution, war, despotism. The world sees Germany as a country of hope and opportunities, and that was certainly not always the case.”

Saying that the EU’s asylum system and, in particular, the Dublin regime were not working anymore “because the situations have changed”, Merkel called for a common European crisis approach:

“[European] States must share their responsibility for asylum-seekers. So far, universal civil rights have been closely linked to Europe and its history. This is one of the founding impetus of the European Union. If Europe fails in the refugee issue, this close bond with universal civil rights is broken. It will be destroyed, and it will not be the Europe we are imagining, not the Europe that we must continue to develop as a founding myth today.”

During the summer months, the German government pushed hard for other EU member states to share the burdens and to agree on the Commission’s proposals.[93] It was argued that Germany moved “from the ultimate defender of the Schengen and Dublin status quo to the main advocate and promoter of an overhaul of the existing regime”.[94] Its main priority was the relocation mechanism for refugees. The strongest voice of resentment to the quota system came from the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán who accused the German chancellor of “moral imperialism”[95]. In a similar manner, Poland’s president Andrzej Duda stated that he would not “agree to a dictate of the strong. I won’t back a Europe where the economic advantage of the size of a population will be a reason to force solutions on other countries regardless of their national interests”[96]. Indeed, scholars have argued that Germany, and chancellor Merkel in particular – due to her liberal stance on refugees, the decision to de facto suspend the Dublin rules and her vigorous support for the Commission’s proposals – quickly found themselves in a quite isolated position within the EU.[97] Some have even spoken of "Europe’s lonely Hegemon".[98]

While the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, avoided the topic of permanent quotas at the European Council meeting on 22 September 2015, Germany – together with Austria and Sweden – called for them to be discussed at the October 2015 meeting.[99] In parallel to its European initiatives, the German government took a number of measures at the domestic level: Already on 13 September 2015, it had decided to reinstate temporary controls on its border with Austria. This caused a ‘domino effect’ in the way that member states across the Western Balkan route also decided to close their borders for asylum-seekers. The German government had been quite reluctant to again start to control its borders, with chancellor Merkel repeatedly saying that everything should be done to ‘preserve Schengen’. However, the decision to finally reinstate border controls was justified by the government with the missing willingness of other EU member states to engage in fairer burden-sharing.

In November 2015, the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) approved a first ‘asylum package’ that, among other things, added Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro to the list of ‘safe countries of origin’, “subjecting their citizens to a 99 per cent rejection rate” in terms of their prospects of asylum.[100] The general public mood in Germany towards asylum and immigration shifted heavily in the wake of over 500 reported sexual assaults by ‘North African-looking men’ in Cologne, Hamburg and other cities on New Year’s Eve 2016. Anticipating three state elections in March 2016, chancellor Merkel came under increasing political pressure also from within her own political party to tighten her stance on asylum and to sustainably reduce the number of arriving refugees. In particular Bavaria’s prime minister Horst Seehofer from the CSU [Christian Social Union in Bavaria], the ‘sister party’ of Merkel’s CDU [Christian Democratic Union], began issuing ultimate.[101] Figures 3 and 4 below show polling data on public satisfaction with the political performance of Angela Merkel and on public support for her political party, respectively:

Figure 3: Satisfaction with the politician Angela Merkel

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: infratest dimap. ARD-DeutschlandTREND, continuous surveys (own illustration)

Question: And now it's your opinion on some top politicians. What about Angela Merkel? Are you very satisfied, satisfied, less satisfied or not satisfied at all with your political work? Missing figures to 100%: ‘don’t know’ or no indication. Translation is my own.


[1] Refugees are “persons fleeing armed conflict or persecution” whereas migrants “choose to move […] mainly to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons”. (See United Nations, UNHCR viewpoint: ‘Refugee’ or ‘Migrant’ – Which is Right? Geneva, United Nations, 11 July 2016, retrieved 30 April 2018, Asylum-seekers, in turn, are persons that have lodged an asylum application in a country other than their home country.

[2] Both the academic literature and newspaper articles dealing with this topic partly speak of ‘refugee and migrant crisis’, partly of ‘refugee crisis’ or ‘migration crisis’. To best consider that both people with high chances to obtain international protection (‘refugees’) and people with lower chances (‘migrants’) came to the EU, the present thesis chooses the wording ‘refugee and migrant crisis’. The term ‘crisis’ refers to the internal political struggle of the EU and its member states to deal with the inflow.

[3] J. M. Burns, Leadership, New York, Harper and Row, 1978.

[4] Ibid., p. 18.

[5] R. Elgie, Leadership in liberal democracies, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 1995.

[6] For such a relational model and a short literature review on political leadership research, see for example M.

T. Fliegauf, A. Kießling & L. Novy, ‘Leader und Follower – Grundzüge eines inter-personalen Ansatzes zur Analyse politischer Führungsleistung’, Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, vol. 18, no. 4, 2008, p. 401.

[7] R. Elgie, Studying political leadership, Foundations and Contenting Accounts, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 2-3.

[8] J. S. Nye, Jr., The Powers to Lead, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 23-24; K. Grint, The Arts of leadership, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 4.

[9] Nye, Jr., op. cit., p. 27.

[10] Material power resources can imply, for example, economic and military power; institutional power resources can imply institutional rights, such as voting rights in the Council, and veto rights; ideational or ‘soft’ power resources can imply information, expertise and reputation. See M. G. Schoeller, ‘Explaining Political Leadership: Germany’s Role in Shaping the Fiscal Compact’, EUI Working Paper RSCAS 2014/82, San Domenico di Fiesole, 2014, p. 5. For a classification of different power resources, see also U. Krotz & J. Schild, Shaping Europe: France, Germany, and Embedded Bilateralism from the Elysée Treaty to Twenty-First Century Politic s, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 22-24.

[11] Nye, Jr., op. cit., p. 19.

[12] Fliegauf, Kießling & Novy, op. cit., p. 405; see also Burns, op. cit., pp. 425-432.

[13] Elgie, Studying political leadership, op. cit., p. 4.

[14] Burns, op. cit., p. 19.

[15] Nye, Jr., op. cit., p. v.

[16] Fliegauf, Kießling & Novy, op. cit., p. 403.

[17] Schoeller, ‘Providing political leadership? Three case studies on Germany's ambiguous role in the eurozone crisis’, Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 24, no. 1, 2017, p. 3.

[18] W. E. Paterson, ‘The Reluctant Hegemon? Germany Moves Centre Stage in the European Union’, Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 49, no. 1, 2011, pp. 57-75.

[19] S. Bulmer & W. E. Paterson, ‘Germany as the EU's reluctant hegemon? Of economic strength and political constraints’, Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 20, no. 10, 2013, pp. 1387-1405.

[20] H. H. Lentner, ‘Hegemony and Autonomy’, Political Studies, vol. 53, no. 4, 2005, pp. 736-737.

[21] S. Bulmer, ‘Germany and the Eurozone Crisis: Between Hegemony and Domestic Politics’, West European Politics, vol. 37, no. 6, 2014, p. 1256.

[22] Bulmer & Paterson, op. cit., p. 1391.

[23] A. Lindenthal, Leadership im Klimaschutz: Die Rolle der Europäischen Union in der internationalen Umweltpolitik, Frankfurt a. M., Campus, 2009, p. 21; 70.

[24] Ibid., p. 57.

[25] Ibid., pp. 74-75.

[26] Schoeller, Providing political leadership, op. cit., p. 3.

[27] See, for example, P. Genschel & M. Jachtenfuchs, ‘Introduction: Beyond Market Regulation. Analysing the European Integration of Core State Powers’, in P. Genschel & M. Jachtenfuchs (eds.), Beyond the Regulatory Polity? The European Integration of Core State Power s, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 12; G.

Majone, Regulating Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996, Ch. 4.

[28] Schoeller, Providing political leadership, op. cit., p. 4.

[29] Ibid., pp. 4-6.

[30] I. Tömmel & A. Verdun, ‘Political leadership in the European Union: an introduction’, Journal of European Integration, vol. 39, no. 2, 2017, p. 103.

[31] J. Hayward, ‘Introduction: Inhibited Consensual Leadership within an Independent Confederal Europe’, in J. Hayward (ed.), Leaderless Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 1.

[32] F. A. W. J. Van Esch, ‘The paradoxes of legitimate EU leadership. An analysis of the multi-level leadership of Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras during the euro crisis’, Journal of European Integration, vol. 39, no. 2, 2017, p. 224.

[33] Tömmel & Verdun, loc. cit.

[34] T. Pedersen, Germany, France, and the Integration of Europe: A Realist Interpretation, London, Pinter, 1998.

[35] L. Hooghe & G. Marks, ‘A Postfunctionalist Theory of European Integration: From Permissive Consensus to Constraining Dissensus’, British Journal of Political Science, vol. 39, no. 1, 2009, pp. 1-23.

[36] P. De Wilde & M. Zürn, ‘Can the Politicization of European Integration be Reversed?’ Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 50, special issue 1, 2012, p. 139.

[37] F. Schimmelfennig, ‘European Integration in the Euro Crisis: The Limits of Postfunctionalism’, Journal of European Integration, vol. 36, no. 3, 2014, p. 322; N. Fligstein, A. Polyakova & W. Sandholtz, ‘European Integration, Nationalism and European Identity’, Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 50, special issue 1, 2012, p. 108.

[38] E. Grande & S. Hutter, ‘Introduction: European integration and the challenge of politicisation’, in S. Hutter, E. Grande & H. Kriesi (eds.), Politicising Europe: Integration and Mass Politics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2016, p. 4.

[39] Hooghe & Marks, op. cit., p. 14.

[40] Grande & Hutter, op. cit., p. 6.

[41] Hooghe & Marks, op. cit., pp. 1-23.

[42] For a conceptualization of and examples for ‘critical events’ in European integration, see Grande and Hutter, op. cit., pp. 20-21.

[43] Ibid., p. 23.

[44] P. Genschel & M. Jachtenfuchs, ‘From Market Integration to Core State Powers: The Eurozone Crisis, the

Refugee Crisis and Integration Theory’, Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 56, no. 1, 2018, pp. 178-196.

[45] B. Laffan, ‘Europe’s union in crisis: tested and contested’, West European Politics, vol. 39, no. 5, 2016, p. 916.

[46] Ibid., pp. 916-917.

[47] J. Müller Gómez, W. Reiners & W. Wessels, ‘EU-Politik in Krisenzeiten: Krisenmanagement und Integrationsdynamik in der Europäischen Union‘, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, vol. 67, no. 37, 2017, p. 11.

[48] Ibid., p. 15.

[49] Although the Treaty of Lisbon now allows for qualified majority voting in the field of JHA, consensusbuilding remains the most accepted approach to decision-making.

[50] F. Tekin, ‘Europapolitische Prioritäten Deutschlands in den Bereichen Innere Sicherheit, Asyl- und Einwanderungspolitik‘, in K. Böttger & M. Jopp (eds.), Handbuch zur deutschen Europapolitik, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2017, p. 342.

[51] The Dublin system today is in its third generation. See European Union, ‘REGULATION (EU) No 604/2013 […] establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (recast)’, Official Journal of the European Union, L 180, 29 June 2013, pp. 31-59.

[52] C. Morsut & B. I. Kruke, ‘Crisis governance of the refugee and migrant influx into Europe in 2015: a tale of disintegration’, Journal of European Integration, vol. 40, no. 2, 2018, p. 149.

[53] L. Buonanno, ‘The European Migration Crisis’, in D. Dinan, N. Nugent & W. E. Paterson (eds.), The European Union in Crisis, London, Palgrave, 2017, pp. 100-130.

[54] F. Pastore & G. Henry, ‘Explaining the Crisis of the European Migration and Asylum Regime’, The International Spectator, vol. 51, no. 1, 2016, p. 50.

[55] P. Bendel & A. Ripoll Servent, ‘Asylum and Refugee Protection: EU policies in crisis’, in F. Trauner & A. Ripoll Servent (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Justice and Home Affairs Research, London, Routledge, 2018, p. 68.

[56] F. Trauner, ‘Wie sollen Flüchtlinge in Europa verteilt werden? Der Streit um einen Paradigmenwechsel in der EU-Asylpolitik‘, in integration, vol. 39, no. 2, 2016, p. 94.

[57] Frontex stands for ‘European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders’.

[58] T. A. Börzel & T. Risse, ‘From the euro to the Schengen crises: European integration theories, politicization, and identity politics’, Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 25, no. 1, 2018, p. 91.

[59] Tekin, op. cit., p. 350.

[60] Trauner, op. cit., p. 101.

[61] European Commission, COMMUNICATION […] on enhanced intra-EU solidarity in the field of asylum. An EU agenda for better responsibility-sharing and more mutual trust. COM(2011) 835 final, Brussels, 2 December 2011.

[62] M. Knodt & A. Tews, ‘European Solidarity and Its Limits: Insights from Current Political Challenges’, in A. Grimmel & S. M. Giang (eds.), Solidarity in the European Union: A Fundamental Value in Crisis, Heidelberg, Springer, 2017, pp. 59-61.

[63] Morsut and Kruke, op. cit., p. 145.

[64] Trauner, op. cit., pp. 98-99.

[65] The following link leads to a timeline that gives a good overview of the different measures taken by the European Commission, the European Council and the Council to respond to the refugee and migrant crisis:, retrieved 27 April 2018.

[66] European Commission, COMMUNICATION […]: A European Agenda on Migration, COM(2015) 240 final, Brussels, 13 May 2015, p. 2.

[67] Ibid, p. 4.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Article 78(3) TFEU states: “In the event of one or more Member States being confronted by an emergency situation characterized by a sudden inflow of nationals of third countries, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may adopt provisional measures for the benefit of the Member State(s) concerned. It shall act after consulting the European Parliament.”

[70] European Commission, European Commission makes progress on Agenda on Migration, Press Release, Brussels, 27 May 2015.

[71] The year 2015 saw a long series of ‘crisis summits’ on migration: Six European Council meetings took place since April 2015, three of which were extraordinary meetings (23 April, 23 September, 12 November) exclusively dedicated to migration, with the other three meetings (25 and 26 June, 15 and 16 October, 17 and 18 December 2015) focusing to a large extent on migration. Additionally, EU heads of State or Government discussed migration with leaders of third countries and strategic partners at the Conference on the Eastern Mediterranean – Western Balkans Route on 8 October, the Valletta summit on 11 and 12 November, and the EU-Turkey summit on 29 November. For the listing see European Parliamentary Research Service, The European Council and crisis management, In-Depth Analysis, Brussels, February 2016, p. 13.

[72] Council of the European Union, Outcome of the Council Meeting, Justice and Home Affairs, 11097/15, Brussels, 20 July 2015. The United Kingdom and Denmark, in accordance with their special provisions in the EU Treaties, decided not to participate in this and any subsequent measures on the topic.

[73] European Commission, Refugee Crisis: European Commission takes decisive action, Press Release, Strasbourg, 9 September 2015.

[74] Morsut & Kruke, op. cit., p. 153; E. Thielemann, ‘Why Refugee Burden-Sharing Initiatives Fail: Public Goods, Free-Riding and Symbolic Solidarity in the EU’, Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 56, no. 1, 2018, pp. 76-77.

[75] Council of the European Union, Presidency Conclusions, Brussels, 14 September 2015.

[76] Later, the Visegrad Group developed the concept of ‘flexible solidarity’ that does not include mandatory quotas, but voluntary contributions based on what member states are able and willing to offer, such as financial contributions, manpower for border control or voluntary accommodation of refugees. See Visegrad Group, Joint Statement of Heads of Governments of the V4 Countries, Bratislava, 16 September 2016.

[77] Council of the European Union, COUNCIL DECISION establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece, Brussels, 22 September 2015.

[78] Morsut & Kruke, op. cit., pp. 9-10.

[79] J. Monar, ‘Justice and Home Affairs’, Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 54, annual review, 2016, pp. 137-138.

[80] For an explanation of the general search for consensus in JHA policies, irrespective of the formal decision-making rules, see R. Adler-Nissen, ‘Behind the scenes of differentiated integration: circumventing national opt-outs in Justice and Home Affairs’, Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 16, no. 1, 2009, pp. 62-80. The author mainly argues that because of the ‘sensitive character’ of JHA matters, a ‘consensus reflex’ is prevailing.

[81] F. Trauner, ‘Asylum policy: the EU’s “crises” and the looming policy regime failure’, Journal of European Integration, vol. 38, no. 3, 2016, p. 320.

[82] On 6 September 2017, the CJEU ruled that the Council decision was legal and that all EU member states, including Slovakia and Hungary, are obliged to participate in the relocation scheme.

[83] The scheme expired on 26 September 2017. As of 4 September 2017, only 27,695 of the aimed-for 160,000 refugees had been relocated. As Hungary and Poland had not relocated a single person and the Czech Republic had not pledged relocation places for more than a year, the Commission started legal action against the three countries. See European Commission, European Agenda on Migration: Good progress in managing migration flows needs to be sustained, Press release, Brussels, 6 September 2017.

[84] This important indication was given in an interview with a civil servant working at the Permanent Representation to the EU of one of the ‘Western’ member states, Brussels, 19 March 2018.

[85] According to the European Parliamentary Research Service, the European Council’s priorities, in the course of the crisis, shifted from saving human lives (phase 1) to the relocation of refugees (phase 2) to securing the EU’s external borders (phase 3); see European Parliamentary Research Service, op. cit., p. 15. Similarly, the discussions in the JHA Council, by the end of 2015, mainly were attempts to better protect the EU’s external borders; see Morsut & Kruke, op. cit., p. 10.

[86] European Commission, Securing Europe’s External Borders: Launch of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Press release, Brussels, 6 October 2016.

[87] Council of the European Union, EU-Turkey statement, Press release, Brussels, 18 March 2016.

[88] N. Koenig, ‘The EU’s external migration policy: Towards win-win-win partnerships’, Jacques Delors Institut, Policy Brief 190, Berlin, 6 April 2017.

[89] Trauner, ‘Wie sollen Flüchtlinge in Europa verteilt werden? Op. cit., p. 104.

[90] The exceptions regarding the application of the Dublin rules were taken back by the German government on 10 November 2015.

[91] On 15 September 2015, Merkel, at a press conference in Berlin, said that this had been an exceptional decision in the face of a ‘humanitarian emergency’. See ‘Angela Merkel defends Germany’s handling of refugee influx’, The Guardian, 16 September 2015, retrieved 30 April 2018,

[92] ‘Sommerpressekonferenz von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel‘, Bundesregierung, 31 August 2015, retrieved 30 April 2018, Translation is my own.

[93] The ‘German’ and the ‘Commission’s’ policy approach were close to each other in the way that chancellor Merkel believed that there was little chance (and that it would morally and legally be wrong) to stop refugees fleeing from war at national borders, while the Commission desperately wanted to maintain the free movement of people within the Schengen area. This is why, as explained by one interviewee, both the German government and the Commission spent a lot of resources on the relocation issue and for a long time were quite reluctant to focus on the EU’s external borders; Interview with a civil servant working at the Permanent Representation to the EU of one of the ‘Western’ member states, op. cit.

[94] Pastore & Henry, op. cit., p. 53.

[95] As quoted in John Theodore, Jonathan Theodore & D. Syrrakos, The European Union and the Eurozone under Stress: Challenges and Solutions for Repairing Fault Lines in the European Project, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, p. 78

[96] As quoted in ibid., pp. 78-79.

[97] Tekin, op. cit., p. 341.

[98] T. Benner, ‚Europas einsamer Hegemon: Selbstverliebtheit ist nicht der Grund für Deutschlands Flüchtlingspolitik‘, Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft, 8 February 2016, retrieved 30 April 2018, Translation is my own.

[99] N. Zaun, ‘States as Gatekeepers in EU Asylum Politics: Explaining the Non-adoption of a Refugee Quota System’, Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 56, no. 1, 2018, p. 55.

[100] J. M. Mushaben, ‘Wir schaffen das! Angela Merkel and the European Refugee Crisis’, German Politics, vol. 26, no. 4, 2017, p. 528.

[101] Ibid.

Excerpt out of 73 pages


Solidarity. From the Heart or by Force ?
The Failed German Leadership in the EU’s Refugee and Migrant Crisis
College of Europe  (Department for European and Governance Studies)
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The author chose an original subject. It clearly raises a strong research question, without worrying too much about the methodological and empirical difficulties that the analysis can pose. (...) Overall, this is a good research and analysis work, based on a well-controlled theoretical approach (leadership), a research question and solid hypotheses, and an adequate methodology (interviews, press). (...)
Political Leadership, Germany, Refugee and migrant crisis, Relocation scheme, Solidarity
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Lucas Schramm (Author), 2018, Solidarity. From the Heart or by Force ?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free