Dissertation Abstracts

A European Labour Immigration Policy, the Community Door Ajar

Author: Gsir, Sonia , Sonia.Gsir@ulg.ac.be
Department: Centre of ethnic and migration studies (CEDEM)
University: Université de Liège, Belgium
Supervisor: Marco Martiniello
Year of completion: 2011
Language of dissertation: French

Keywords: European policy , labour immigration , European Commission , highly skilled migration
Areas of Research: Migration , Labor Movements , Political Sociology


Immigration policies have been for long time developed at the national level by sovereign States seeking to determine under what conditions they allow the entry and stay of foreigners into their territories. Since the signing of the Amsterdam Treaty, European integration has allowed actors other than national governments to intervene in the control of immigration. The Europeanization of migration policies is a highly relevant topic (Geddes, 2001, Guiraudon, 2000) but research has often focused on immigration control and securitization (Guild, 2001). The aim of this research is to examine the new discourse that has emerged since the end of the 1990s and which promotes a relative openness to labour immigration (Boswell, 2003).
I examine the development of this discourse at the European level and its policy consequences in order to answer the following question: why and how has the European Commission endorsed a discourse that favours new immigration of workers to Europe after decades of a zero immigration doctrine and despite restrictive positions of the Member States? To address this question, I scrutinize the policy-making of a European labour immigration policy from the start of the Amsterdam Treaty (May 1st, 1999) until the adoption of the Council Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment, also known as the Blue Card Directive (May 29th, 2009). Methodologically, the research is mainly based on the analysis of more than 400 documents from EU institutions as well as 37 semi-structured interviews with stakeholders involved in the European policy-making. The data also draws on several hours of participant observation.
Based on the theoretical framework of discursive institutionalism (Schmidt, 2008), the dissertation explains the policy process carried out by European actors, particularly the European Commission and Direction General Justice and Home Affairs. Using the concept of discourse (defined as ideas and interactions), this dissertation examines the ideas about new labour migration in Europe. It highlights the European policy-making on labour migration and the step-by-step process of how European actors reached an agreement on the so-called Blue Card Directive. The dissertation shows that the European Commission - whatever the ideas it promotes - seeks primarily to legitimize its activities and position itself as a supranational actor and strengthen the competencies under the Treaties. Migrant worker categories that emerged from the policy process range from the new economic migrant to the emblematic highly skilled worker who is seen as the ideal migrant. The common labour migration policy that was finally adopted leaves the Community door ajar. It is characterized by a differentiated approach and a preference for temporary immigration.