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Political Asylum and Sovereignty-Sharing in Europe

  • Hakan G. Sicakkan


In focusing on the relationships between asylum recognition rates and the different institutional arrangements through which European states share or preserve their sovereignty, this article seeks to show how sovereignty-sharing affects the right to political asylum in practice. After a qualitative overview of variations in sovereignty-sharing forms, the article presents the results from a multiple regression analysis of the relationship between legal and institutional frames of asylum decision-making in 17 West European countries (EU-15, Norway and Switzerland) and the asylum recognition rates in these countries. The article ends with a brief assessment of the significance of the results for a potential policy change in the European Union.



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1 Neumayer, E., ‘Asylum Recognition Rates in Western Europe. Their Determinants, Variation, and Lack of Convergence’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49 (2005), pp. 4366. These data have been made publicly available on the internet by the Journal of Conflict Resolution. Neumayer's data can be downloaded at

2 H. G. Sicakkan ‘The European Politics of Citizenship and Asylum. A Comparative Analysis of the Relationship between Citizenship Models and the Legal-Institutional Frames of Asylum Determination in West Europe’, Bergen, University of Bergen, Department of Comparative Politics, 2006; H. G. Sicakkan, Political Asylum beyond Citizenship Concerns, New York, Edwin Mellen Press, forthcoming 2008.

3 F. Liebaut and T. B. Johnsen, Legal and Social Conditions for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Western European Countries, Copenhagen, Danish Refugee Council, 2000.

4 K. Hailbronner, Study on the Asylum Single Procedure (‘One-Stop-Shop’) against the Background of the Common European Asylum System and the Goal of a Common Asylum Procedure. Report to the European Commission, Brussels, European Commission, 2002.

5 Neumayer, ‘Asylum Recognition Rates’, p. 51. The operationalization of the dependent variables has also determined the data structure. For each country, asylum recognition rates have been broken down with respect to the sending country. There are 207 sending countries in the data set, which means that we have 207 cases for each European country – that is, there should be 3,519 (17 × 207) cases. However, since not all countries send asylum seekers to all countries, the number of valid observations is 1,101.

6 Sicakkan, Political Asylum beyond Citizenship Concerns. The quantification is obtained from a factor analysis of actors’ roles in asylum decision-making in 19 European countries – with a point of departure in the categories ‘no role = 0’, ‘observer status = 1’, ‘advisory status = 2’, ‘equal status = 3’, and ‘full decision authority = 4’.

7 Hailbronner, Study on the Asylum Single Procedure.

8 Ibid.

9 Holzer, T., Scheneider, G. and Widmer, T., ‘Discriminating Decentralization: Federalism and the Handling of Asylum Applications in Switzerland (1988–1996)’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 44 (2000), pp. 250–76.

10 Ibid.

11 Sicakkan, The European Politics of Citizenship and Asylum.

12 Cf. also M. Gibney, The Ethics and Politics of Asylum. Liberal Democracy and the Response to Refugees, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

13 Sicakkan, Political Asylum beyond Citizenship Concerns.

14 Holzer et al., ‘Discriminating Decentralization’.

15 Sicakkan, The European Politics of Citizenship and Asylum.

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Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
  • EISSN: 1477-7053
  • URL: /core/journals/government-and-opposition
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