Escaping Populism – Safeguarding Minority Rights: Non-majoritarian Dynamics in European Policy-making

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Contrary to earlier predictions, communitarization in the area of asylum policies has not led to an erosion of refugee rights. Instead, there is growing evidence that EU asylum harmonization has safeguarded existing standards and even enhanced the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees in Europe. We seek to explain this by building on the insights of principal-agent theory. We argue that delegation to supranational institutions can strengthen non-majoritarian policy dynamics and shield EU policy-makers from populist pressures for further immigration restrictions that national governments are often confronted with. We support this argument empirically through a systematic longitudinal analysis of the evolution of EU asylum policies. In particular, we seek to assess the motivation for and impact of greater delegation to EU institutions on rights developments for asylum-seekers and refugees. We also explain to what extent EU policy-making has changed with the EU's response to the ‘Syrian refugee crisis’.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Common Market Studies
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)906-922
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 05.2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
* The authors would like to thank three anonymous referees for their valuable comments. This research was funded by Eidgenössisches Departement für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 University Association for Contemporary European Studies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd

    Research areas

  • asylum, European Union institutions, justice and home affairs, minority rights, populism, principal-agent theory