Analysing the EU’s Migration-Development Nexus Through the Lens of Competing Policy Frames

Marlies Humpelstetter

Duodecim Astra, Issue 1, 2021, pp. 26 – 54

Author description

About the author: Marlies Humpelstetter is from Austria and studied Politics and Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. She is currently undertaking a master’s degree programme in EU Political and Governance Studies at the College of Europe. Her academic interests include public policy, migration and European neighbourhood policy.


The relationship between migration and development is a contentious subject and has generated diametrically opposed conceptualisations of its causal link. Some scholars regard migration primarily as a symptom and even aggravator of underdevelopment in the global South, while others instead tout the potential development benefits of migration. These wildly different views are reflected in the contradictory and at times empirically flawed paradigms that define the EU’s discourse on the migration-development nexus. This article uses policy frames as its main conceptual tool to identify and analyse the two competing paradigms of the migration-development nexus in the EU’s discourse. For this purpose, content analysis will be applied to the EU’s agenda-setting documents from the years 2011 to 2020. The main finding is that the 2015 migration ‘crisis’ constitutes a significant turning point for the EU’s framing of the migration and development relationship. It has prompted a shift of policymakers’ focus from maximising the development potential of migrants towards addressing the root causes of migration flows to Europe through development aid. However, the present research shows that despite the diminished importance of the migration-for-development paradigm, some of the frame’s key concepts, like the facilitation of remittances, have become constant features of the EU’s migration governance and continue to influence policymaking.


Keywords: Migration, development, EU, policy frames, crisis

Full article: Analysing the EU’s Migration-Development Nexus Through the Lens of Competing Policy Frames

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