Perpetuating Crisis as a Supply Strategy: The Role of (Nativist) Populist Governments in EU Policymaking on Refugee Distribution

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We still know very little of how populist governments behave as compared to mainstream governments in Council decision-making. Studying the ‘crucial case’ of negotiations around refugee distribution in the EU, an issue which allows populists to mobilize both anti-EU and anti-immigrant sentiment, we demonstrate that populist governments differ from mainstream ones in three important ways: First, they reject formal and informal rules of Council decision-making if these are not conducive to their preferred outcome; second, they reject traditional means of ensuring compromise such as package-deals and side-payments; third, they reject the final solution and exploit the ensuing deadlock to prove that the EU is weak and dysfunctional. We show that populist governments adopt such a behaviour even when they would benefit from the adoption of a policy solution. However, we expect populists to engage in such political games only when the negative effects of non-decisions are not immediate.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Common Market Studies
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)653-672
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 05.2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the participants involved in the project ‘The future of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice in times of populism and political uncertainty’, participants of the Sciences Po General Seminar series, the ACELG/ACES Lecture at the University of Amsterdam and the VirEuS seminar series for their valuable feedback on earlier versions of this paper. Special thanks go to Saskia Bonjour, Helena Farrand Carrapiço, Virginie Guiraudon, Adrienne Héritier, Marie Moncada, Christof Roos, Natasha Wunsch and Jonathan Zeitlin as well as two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments. We thank Daniela Movileanu for research assistance and our interview partners for sharing their insights.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies published by University Association for Contemporary European Studies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

    Research areas

  • Council, Dublin IV, Italy, populism, refugee crisis, Visegrad states
  • Politics