The European Commission has developed a distribution key for refugees across the European Union that lacks a theoretical backing. Luc Bovens has defended an alternative key that is grounded in a theory of responsibility sharing within a federal structure. It determines what constitutes a reasonable willingness to absorb refugees for each member state, based on population size and on the costs and benefits of refugee reception.
A federation of states faces the task of sharing responsibility for the challenges that face them in a wide range of areas, for example in matters of defence, public works and the management of shared commons. Fair policies in this broad domain are sensitive to a concern for solidarity and for differential impact. Solidarity requires greater contributions from those who are more capable. Differential impact requires greater contributions from those who have more to gain and less to lose in addressing the challenge in question.
A pressing issue today is the challenge of the massive refugee streams that are entering Europe’s borders and are concentrated mostly in the poorer Southern member states. The Commission’s proposal is to distribute these refugees across the EU, though many of the member states resist this move on grounds of national sovereignty.
If we do accept that refugee reception is indeed a matter of collective responsibility, then what would constitute a fair distribution? We can bring in the principles of solidarity and differential impact to determine how many refugees (or rather, migrants who claim to be in need of international protection) each member state should take. The European Commission aims to do so when it proposes a formula that rest on population size, GDP, unemployment rates and past reception rates. But the Commission’s proposal lacks theoretical backing.
This project aims to develop a distribution key that is grounded in a general theory of what constitutes a fair distribution of responsibilities in addressing challenges that face a society with a federal structure. This requires the construction of a multi-dimensional index that assesses a reasonable willingness to absorb refugees for each member state. The index consists of various sub-indices that operationalise aspects of capability as well as costs and benefits of refugee reception and that are arranged in a conceptually defensible manner.
Luc Bovens and Anna Bartsch (Jan 2016), “Towards a fairer distribution of asylum seekers“, VoxEurop Blog.
Luc Bovens and Anna Bartsch (Oct 2015), “Why the Refugee Quota System is Unfair on Poorer Eastern and Southern EU States“, LSE European Politics and Policy Blog.
Luc Bovens and Jane von Rabenau (Dec 2014), “Contrary to the claims of German politicians, Germany is not taking on more than its fair share of refugees“, LSE European Politics and Policy Blog.
Luc Bovens and Jane von Rabenau (Apr 2014), “Germany is accepting less than its fair share of refugees, while official data have also overestimated the number of refugees living in the country“, LSE European Politics and Policy Blog.
Luc Bovens and Günperi Sisman (Apr 2013), “Greece, Portugal, Spain and the East European States Take on Less than their Fair Share of Responsibility for EU Asylum Seekers“, LSE European Politics and Policy Blog.
Luc Bovens, Chlump Chatkupt and Laura Smead (2012), “Measuring common standards and equal responsibility sharing in EU asylum outcome data“, European Union Politics, 13 (1): 70-93.