Cities Rising: European Municipalities and the Refugee Surge
21 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2017
Date Written: 2017
The two major cities of the transnational Öresund region, Denmark’s capital city Copenhagen and Sweden’s third largest city Malmö, are connected physically by bridge and are in many respects a single metropolitan area. However, the national-level responses to Europe’s refugee crisis have undermined efforts to integrate the economic, transport and other aspects of the Öresund. In January 2016, Swedish border controls went into effect to stem the flow of thousands of refugees who sought to leave Denmark for the more hospitable Sweden. The disruption brought upon by this development brings to light many social issues addressed by the local – not national – level.
This essay focuses on these local impacts, examining what they indicate about the inadequacies of the current structural relationships between Europe’s local, national, and regional governments in the context of mass migration. I analyze these impacts using data compiled by the Eurocities network and through a case study of the Öresund region. First, I provide a brief overview of the role of cities in the legal framework for refugee admission and settlement, which places the exclusive decision making authority and policy responsibility at the national and regional level. Second, I examine two decision-making arenas in which cities have asserted the need for a greater voice: (a) the allocation of funds and support for refugee resettlement and inclusion, and (b) the establishment of border controls that affect local economies, using the Öresund region as a case study. Finally, I offer some observations about emerging relationships between local and national governments in Europe. In particular, I note the ways in which the refugee surge interacts with several simultaneous initiatives that are establishing stronger roles for local governments on the European and international stages, including the decentralization of functions that were once the exclusive province of nation states.
Keywords: refugees, Öresund
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