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Sybille Münch

The study of EU asylum and migration policies is a latecomer to interpretive approaches. With immigration as one of the core policy areas where states exercise sovereignty, migration policy was long characterized by intergovernmental policymaking procedures. Since the start of European integration, there has been a sharp contrast between the liberal regime of free movement or ‘mobility’ and the neglect of common migration policies with regard to third country nationals. The major turning point came only with the communitarization of EU asylum and migration policies since the Treaty of Amsterdam. This chapter starts by briefly introducing the status quo and the development of a European governance structure in the field, gives a short overview of how the mainstream has analysed EU migration policies, before presenting more recent research that employs a post-positivist research agenda. Drawing from this review, the main part discusses different narratives and frames that are central to an interpretive analysis of EU migration policymaking.

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Hubert Heinelt and Sybille Münch

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Handbook of European Policies

Interpretive Approaches to the EU

Edited by Hubert Heinelt and Sybille Münch

This definitive Handbook addresses the current lack of research into European policymaking and development using an interpretive perspective. Questioning areas that mainstream approaches tend to neglect, contributors target the ways in which ideas, arguments and discourses shape policies in the institutional context of the EU.
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Marlon Barbehön, Sybille Münch and Wolfram Lamping

Public policy-making, as technocratically conceived, appears as a rational process of solving known problems. Political problems are then regarded as part of a pre-given ‘neutral’ reality to which public policy simply responds. In contrast, our contribution develops a critical approach in that it traces three different (at times overlapping) perspectives. Firstly, we introduce approaches that criticize the top-down and linear conceptualizations of policy-making as problem-solving and instead study agenda-building as a complex process of turning issues into political problems. Secondly, we present a more fundamental epistemological challenge as constituted by post-positivist approaches and their focus on the struggle over the definition of problems at various stages of the policy process. Lastly, we introduce approaches that emphasize the role of power and political manipulation in problem definition and agenda-setting. Taken together, these strands provide the basis for a critical perspective which conceptualizes problem definition as a basic discursive process – part of the construction of a political world – and agenda-setting as a specific type of problem definition that attributes responsibility to a political actor or institution. From this perspective, problem definition and agenda-setting are not regarded as distinct phases but as constructions of reality that can be identified within the larger policy-making process.