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When the Revolutionary Wave Comes: Arab Spring and the Role of the European Commission in the Schengen Reform, 2011-2013

By studying the process of reform of the Schengen acquis in 2011-2013 inspired by the Arab Spring and the inflow of migrants to the Mediterranean shores of the European Union, in this paper I seek to show how policy entrepreneurs exploit windows of opportunity that open following an external shock (a notion I use to conceptualise the events of the Arab Spring) in order to fulfill their own preferences, regardless of the substance of the external shock in question. How could it happen that the reform initiated by Italy and France in 2011 to “re-nationalise the Schengen” would in the end turn just the opposite of what they sought to achieve? My research suggests that the major factor which helps explain this is the institutional standing of the European Commission which holds exclusive right of legislative initiative, and the fact that by using its position, the Commission was able to win over the European Parliament to its side by effectively making it into a veto-player in its negotiations with the EU Council, thus trapping the Member States into the “joint decision trap”.