Irregular Immigration to the EU: “the South-East Gate

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EU-GRASP Working Paper 28
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The European Union (EU) emerged from what was originally designed to be a customs and economic union. Economic development was an instrument of reconciliation after WWII and a security discourse essentially supported integration by convincing states that security was a “European issue” (“unity is strength”). In addition it promoted a supranational identity: “unity in diversity”. European economic integration resulted in increased interdependence; therefore, the EU has gradually also evolved into a security community. After the Treaty of the EU in 1992 and the ratification of the Schengen Treaty, the free movement of people was celebrated as both a necessary step and a success of European integration. Within Europe, mobility was seen as a necessary factor for developing integration and the movement of people was encouraged through mobility funding programmes1. In brief, the EU’s security discourse focuses on the concept of “unity in diversity” and on norms of economic stability and shared sovereignty, and revolves around economic and political integration. Thus, internal migration was then seen as a positive factor and EU citizens supported it. External migration was perceived as a purely humanitarian action. However, free movement within the union also touched on the question of irregular immigration as those already inside the common borders could move around (within the Schengen zone) as easily as legal citizens.

This case study focuses on the irregular immigration problem in Greece, a member state that shares borders with several candidate states, notably Turkey, or prospective candidates in the Balkans including FYROM and Albania. It explores Greek policy with respect to strengthening the mechanisms which control and deter irregular immigration. The main thrust of the study is to demonstrate whether there is indeed a coherent policy on irregular immigration between the EU and its member states on the one hand, and amongst the member states on the other.