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The Political Economy of Mobility Partnerships – Structural Power in the EU's External Migration Policy

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The research on European Union (EU) external relations and the EU's own official discourse frequently portray the EU as a soft power that provides its neighbourhood with good governance principles. The European Mobility Partnerships (EU MPs) can be considered the most recent manifestation of this rhetoric. Studies on EU MPs reflect a narrow understanding of power. This paper aims to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the power dimension inherent in the EU's external relations. It develops a neogramscian theoretical framework to challenge the rhetoric of the EU as a soft power and normative hegemon. Drawing on semi-structured expert interviews and textual analysis of documents, it seeks to reveal whether and in what ways socio-economic power dynamics shape the EU MPs. This article argues that while, at the beginning, the design of the EU MPs as a policy tool has been very much influenced by neoliberal ideas such as the market-oriented liberalisation of mobility and the flexibilisation of labour, implementation is marked by the neo-mercantilist approach of restricting immigration and maximising the efficiency of readmission. Applying a critical political economy concept of power is helpful in understanding how market forces influence EU external migration policy, transcending a narrow understanding of power.
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Keywords: EU Mobility Partnerships; European Union; hegemony; labour mobility; migration; structural power

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Political Science Department, University of Lucerne, Frohburgstrasse 3, P.O. Box 4466, Lucerne, 6002, Switzerland

Publication date: November 2, 2015

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