Thielemann, Eiko (2009) Beyond Fortress Europe? How European Cooperation Strengthens Refugee Protection. In: UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)
It is often said that European cooperation on asylum has led to the development of ‘Fortress Europe’, as asylum policies have become more restrictive and asylum seekers find it increasingly difficult to reach European territory and benefit from effective protection. There can be little doubt that there have been restrictive asylum policy trends in most, if not all, destination countries and there are many examples of how existing laws have failed asylum seekers in need of protection. We argue, however, that there is little evidence for the claim that steps towards a common European asylum policy have been responsible for, or exacerbated, such developments. On the contrary, we argue that European cooperation on asylum has curtailed regulatory competition among the Member States and that in doing so it has largely halted the race to the bottom in protection standards in the EU. Rather than leading to policy harmonisation at the ‘lowest common denominator’, EU asylum laws have frequently led to an upgrading of domestic asylum laws in several Member States, strengthening protection standards for several groups of forced migrants even in those cases where EU laws have been widely criticised for their restrictive character. It is reasonable to expect that the ongoing ‘communitarisation’ of asylum policy will improve Member States’ implementation records of EU asylum law and further improve refugee protection outcomes in Europe.
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