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Frontline uses of European Union (EU) law: a parallel legal order? How structural discretion conditions uses of EU law in Dutch and German migration offices

  • Nora Dörrenbächer (a1)

This article tackles the question of how bureaucratic structures condition frontline implementers’ use of European Union (EU) migration law. Adopting an organisational perspective, the study expects that only under discretion do implementers draw independently on original EU law. Empirically, the article draws on qualitative interviews with migration law implementers in the Netherlands and the German Bundesland of North Rhine-Westphalia. The analysis reveals that in the nondiscretionary Dutch structure, frontline implementers only rely on EU law when receiving instructions from higher administrative levels. The use of EU law is more diverse in the German discretionary structure. Under legal tension, several German frontline implementers use EU law parallel to national law. However, not all German respondents feel comfortable in interpreting original EU law and jurisprudence. Although structural discretion conditions uses of EU law, the variation of the German case suggests that microlevel factors complement explanations for frontline uses of EU law.

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