Exogenously triggered, Endogenous Institutional Change: The Arrival of Refugees

By Katharina Bauer

I argue that the current arrival of refugees can be seen as an exogenous 'puncture', triggering the shift to a new equilibrium state of institutions concerning border transit in Europe. I hypothesize that the arrival of refugees exogenously triggers contextual changes that in turn leads to endogenous institutional change in European countries.

Increased arrivals of refugees impact the readiness of EU member states to strengthen their border protection. In fact, some EU countries, such as Germany and Hungary, have increased border controls or closed of borders completely. Recently, the Hungarian government introduced new laws, making it punishable to cross borders. This has particular consequences for cross-border movement within the Schengen Area. The Schengen Area comprises most EU member states except the UK and Ireland. Within this area, citizens are allowed to cross borders without being subjected to border checks. Thus, free movement is guaranteed for any person legally present on EU territory. Laws and controls introduced to regulate refugee influx oppose the principle of free movement across borders in Europe. This change in rules also ultimately affects European citizens.

Decentralization of control over national boundaries, triggered by the arrival of refugees, can pinpoint a shift in equilibrium state of institutions governing European borders. Centralized management of the refugee influx, such as the “Refugee Quota” promoted by the EU Commission, has been rejected mainly by Eastern European countries.

On an additional note, it is interesting to see, that decentralization has also been a reaction of African communities to heightened hostilities emerging from slave trade, stated by Nunn (2008). Parallels between the two cases could be drawn regarding the responses of governing authorities to heightened chaotic and insecure environments.