“BordEUr: New European Borderlands” is a collaborative research project of nine European universities, Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. BordEUr documents and assesses the proliferation of new borders in the aftermath of the European Union’s (EU) recent crises (the Eurozone crisis, the so-called migration crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic), which in various ways, were crises of those very borders. We suggest that the refugee and migration issue in particular goes well beyond policy and institutions, and instead instantiates a fundamental uncertainty that faces not just the EU, but liberal democracy in general. This multi-faceted global crisis of capitalism and liberal democracy resulted in a worldwide pushback taking multiple forms, but populism and its European rightwing variant in particular merit. The particular right-wing populist interpretation of European politics (including migration) namely puts the focus squarely back on bordered nation states, away from supranational units. First, only nation states can erect and maintain borders, and second, the threat itself (societal security and terrorism) is also primarily framed on the state level. BordEUr situates the question of (re)emergent borders in the context of this populist pushback against a crisis-ridden liberal democratic status quo.
Through its focus on (re)emergent borders, BordEUr seeks to address pressing challenges that the EU is facing in its border control practices as well as in its self-representation as an international actor. The BordEUr Jean Monnet Network seeks to do so by bringing academic research and policy practice closer together by producing high quality research for the purposes of identifying the socio-political effects of the creation of new borderlands both on the national and the European level. Research informed by practices “on the ground” can contribute to more effective policy design in tackling these issues. The output of the project is targeted at academics interested in novel approaches to the study of the European Union and migration, experts and policymakers who are looking for social science-informed policy solutions, university students who are interested in an academic or policy career in one of the subject areas targeted by BORDEUR’s research, and the general public looking for a more accessible, but also nuanced academic understanding of some of the most hotly debated issues in current European politics.
BordEUr’s research activities mainly target the writing of country case studies, which will in turn form the content of an online edited volume and serve as background material for a policy paper. The case studies analyzed will present multifaceted approaches towards the process of border control externalizationthrough the lens of the European countries covered by our consortium. The UK case will investigate the process through which the UK’s borders are being re-established in opposition to the integration process as the country prepares to leave the EU. We approach Hungary and Austria as member states of the Schengen Zone that are renegotiating their borders within the Zone, which is counter to the idea of a borderless Europe. Hungary then leads us further towards investigating the meaning of borders at the edge of the Schengen Zone by looking at three cases in the Mediterranean: Spain, Italy and Greece. Greece and Italy have been the original entry points into the EU for migrants and refugees, and both states are still heavily affected by migration. Meanwhile, Spain and Italy are active proponents of border control externalization towards Northern Africa, where the EU is relying on contentious policy tools to curtail the influx of people through the Mediterranean Sea. New borderlands, like the ones in Northern Africa, are also emerging in the Balkans and in Turkey. Therefore, our case studies on Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey will offer a comparative take on how the EU is policing its own internal borders between Schengen and non-Schengen states (Greece-Bulgaria, Greece-Rep. of Macedonia, Greece-Turkey), as well as between member states and third states that aspire—at least rhetorically—for membership (North Macedonia and Turkey). Our research design enables us to go beyond bordering practices in these case studies and investigate what meaning is being assigned to new and emergent borders both on the national and on the European level.
To maximize our impact, BordEUr is designed to
- establish a lasting professional network of research centers at major European universities, thereby pooling their academic and professional networks
- demonstrate the benefits of multi- and interdisciplinary research by involving a diverse group of scholars, and to expands the conceptual and methodological toolkit of participating academics and readers alike
- demonstrate the usefulness of academic analysis to key contemporary problems of European Integration by linking abstract analysis to policy practice, and reflect on their interconnectedness in academic (e-book, course material) and policy (policy paper) formats.
- promote a problem-oriented, constructively critical approach to the study of the European Union’s policies
- offer a wide geographical coverage in its case studies that show the changing meaning of borders for member states in the Mediterranean (Greece, Spain and Italy), the establishment of new borderlands in the Balkans (Rep. of Macedonia and Bulgaria) and in Turkey, the re-Westphalization of borders within the Schengen Zone (Austria and Hungary), and the relationship between migration and the re-emergence of borders (United Kingdom)
- facilitate the creation of communication channels with a wider audience via regular public events, social media presence, and a webpage
- educate a new generation of scholars via a newly designed university course, and an accessible database
- involve civil society actors who deal with migration through multiple for a (research, public events, social media)